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  • Writer's pictureBeatrice Pang

Our Teaching Principles

Updated: Feb 13

Given our sharp focus on delivering superior quality, we invest heavily in hiring, training, and continued development for all our instructors. All DLC instructors must study our 46-page training manual, pass an extensive test, observe demo lessons, and attend a training seminar before teaching their first DLC classes. We also observe and provide coaching feedback to the first classes they teach and regularly observe all of our instructors’ classes to ensure consistently high quality.

To give you a glimpse of our teaching manual, I’m sharing our teaching principles developed based on evidence-based research and time-tested learning in partnership with our advisors:

  1. Success is often the biggest learning motivator, and fear of failure is often the biggest source of frustration. Celebrate wins, praise efforts, and avoid leaving students frustrated by overly challenging problems. Sometimes, students may not solve 100% of a problem, but you should still acknowledge and praise the parts they have solved. Borrow work a student has successfully completed to show and explain to the class to provide a positive experience.

  2. Appropriately challenging content creates optimal learning results. Students enjoy the flow state of learning and learn the best when working on problems that are neither too easy nor too hard. Therefore, don’t be too rigid. Constantly adapt to students’ real-time responses and optimize the pace by accelerating easy lessons or slowing down as you see fit. Gradually introduce increasingly challenging problems step by step. Students often disengage when problems are too complex and may not explicitly tell you they don’t understand.

  3. Frequently check for understanding and evaluate students through classroom discussions, independent practices, and low-stake quizzes. You can only deliver appropriately challenging lessons if you fully understand your students’ current levels of understanding. However, don’t explicitly grade your students or compare grades in front of them, which can cause unnecessary stress. Instead, carefully observe and take private notes of each student’s proficiency level from each lesson so that you can best adapt your teaching. Be thorough and patient when checking for understanding ("formative assessment"). Allow each student to demonstrate understanding independently and directly to you. When a student struggles with a problem, break down the building blocks for its solution and diagnose the specific knowledge gap(s) the student has.

  4. Minimize cognitive overload by (1) not introducing too many new concepts or complex problems at once, (2) organizing instructions to only focus on what you want the students to learn and remove fluff, (3) presenting interim goals one step at a time ensuring understanding each step along the way when instructing instead of presenting the final goal too early when introducing new concepts, (4) remaining patient, observant and silent while students are trying to concentrate, (5) Staying still when you need students to focus on something you are saying, and (6) removing redundant information in your instructions. Thoughtfully decide when to read along with students and when to allow them time to read and explore independently. Avoid too many discussions. Use words suitable for children’s ages, check for understanding, and provide explanations as needed.

  5. Teach with empathy and use positive discipline. Praise behaviors you’d like to encourage and avoid giving harsh criticism. Try to ask a prompting question or provide a hint to give students another chance to correct a mistake instead of just saying, “This is wrong.” Psychological safety helps students learn the best. Lower your body to the students' level and look your students in the eye when you speak to them rather than hovering over them. It changes the dynamic, and quite frankly, it’s easier for the students than having to look up at someone who is much taller than them. It’s a little thing, but it sometimes makes students more comfortable.

  6. Use the time-tested “I do, we do, you do” approach to teach new topics and apply the Socratic method to develop students’ investigative minds. Provide clear, explicit instructions first, then guide them through “we do” practices with lots of prompting and guiding questions, and gradually move students to independent practices when they respond with readiness. Avoid diving directly into the “you do” step unless the students have previously demonstrated their capability and, based on your observation, are prepared to succeed. Always start with a problem or concept you know the student can solve. Repeat, practice, and ask questions that require more than a "yes/no" answer. Request explanations, sometimes verbal, sometimes in writing. When students ask for help at the “you do” step, try asking leading questions to guide them to find answers step by step themselves as much as possible to develop their own critical thinking instead of providing direct answers. Let students “struggle a bit” and only provide direct answers if students can’t answer them after ~20 seconds.

  7. Interweave different topics and activities to promote learning. Interweaving multiple topics and spaced retrieval practice promotes memory retention and makes the lessons more engaging. Students should only move on to a new topic after demonstrating the ability to solve problems independently for the previous topic. Teach something new and tie it back to something old.

  8. Children often learn better with concrete examples and visual aids. Children are still developing the prefrontal cortex part of their brain, which controls abstract thinking. At that stage in their development, concrete examples (physical manipulatives) can be extremely beneficial in visualizing abstract concepts. We recommend using fingers in the early stages and then moving on to math manipulatives such as pattern blocks, dice, scales, place value coins, Mathlink cubes, algebra tiles, and other visual aids to help students understand math.

  9. Always plan your lessons with an Opening and a Closing that provide structure and consistency from class to class. Use those times to remind students about behaviors and protocols, set expectations, and issue praise so they know you appreciate their efforts. Remind them that together, the students and the instructor form a Team, and everyone wants the Team to be as successful as possible. The beginning and end of each lesson are often the most memorable. Therefore, strive to make your lessons enjoyable by playing a fun and pedagogically relevant math game or teaching a less dry topic at the beginning or end of a class. Avoid ending a class on a frustratingly tricky problem.

  10. Be present, build genuine bonds, and have fun! Relationship-building is vital so that students see their instructors as partners and mentors and feel like they can trust them in their math learning journey. We want to make learning math joyful. Therefore, always bring a positive spirit to your lessons and be fully present. Be playful. Laugh with your students. Get to know them, listen with an open heart, and make them feel understood.

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