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16 teaching theories every educator should know

Teaching Theories educators should know



As educators, we strive to find the best tips and techniques for the children we teach. We want the children to excel and reach the potential we know they can.  

We long to help children to delve deeper and reach and master the skills and knowledge we impart,  but what if some of our existing teaching methods are holding them back?  Or, are there simple changes we can make to help the children achieve more, or to help them to easily overcome commonly experienced barriers to learning?

Finding and understanding teaching methods can be a challenging task. Many researchers and theories are out there, and navigating the articles can often be confusing. 

We’ve made it easy for you and broken down 16 impactful teaching techniques that can significantly help your pupils.


1: Cognitive Theory of Multimedia Learning

Mayer’s Cognitive Theory of Multimedia Learning is broad but, simply put, makes sure that any multimedia used in teaching complements how the human mind works. 

There are three main points;

  1. There are two separate channels for learning: auditory and visual, so use pictures and words.
  2. Each channel has a limited capacity, so don’t overload it.
  3. Multimedia learning is an active process of choosing words, pictures and prior knowledge, so include only the most relevant information

All Chatta activities link the spoken word and images to the activities, reflecting how a human mind thinks and builds on prior learning. 

The Chatta method includes multimedia learning in each lesson but emphasises the spoken word over the written word to help children order their thoughts clearly, before writing them down.


2: Cognitive Load Theory

Put simply, the basis of Cognitive Load Theory is that a human mind can only store and process between 3 and 7 chunks of information at one time. Attempting more than this will mean that information is confused and forgotten. Cognitive Load Theory says that if information is presented carefully in small pieces with plenty of revisiting, the long term memory will store it infinitely.

A Chatta lesson ensures that all significant concepts are broken down into parts and reduced to even smaller pieces if needed. Information is also shared in a logical sequence, building on each other and enabling a successful transition to long term memory.


3: Oral Rehearsal

For a learner to become a successful writer, they must first be a competent talker. Oral rehearsal is the technique of practising saying a sentence out loud before putting a pencil to paper. Oral rehearsal helps children organise their ideas and prepare their thoughts clearly, before writing them down. Often this is referred to as ‘writing aloud’.

Speaking is at the heart of Chatta. We believe that talk is the halfway house between thinking and writing.  Each lesson has designated time for talk and focuses on developing the children’s thoughts through talk, either with and around the teacher, partner, or audience. The Chatta method encourages children to verbalise their thought process as opposed to copying or reciting.


4: Oral Narrative Competence

Oral narrative is the ability to tell a story. If a child has oral narrative competence, they can tell a story well using precise language, cognitive skills (to think of the story, and social skills) to consider the audience. Children who have practised and mastered these skills will become more accomplished writers.

Every day provides many opportunities for children to turn thoughts into sequenced sentences. Chatta identifies that there is a story in everything, even through regular events children experience in their daily routines. By using these events as opportunities, children from very young ages can narrate thoughts into sequenced sentences. 


5: Modelled Spoken Language

For children to become competent speakers, it is essential to develop an environment full of high quality spoken language. When modelled language includes clear sentences, descriptions, narratives and thought processes, a child will begin to use the language they hear and put it into their own context. Modelled spoken language helps a child to express themselves effectively.   

As speaking sits at the centre of Chatta, the way that language is modelled is key to the children’s outcomes. If practitioners strive to use similar but varied language repeatedly, children begin to use the words and phrases they have heard for themselves.


6: Retrieval Practice

Retrieval practice is a technique that requires children to draw on their previous knowledge. Finding the exact piece of information in your mind can be difficult. However, when repeatedly retrieving it (and practising this retrieval), learners can examine what they already know and build on their existing knowledge.

Daily, weekly and monthly retrieval is how Chatta ensures that children can pull the relevant knowledge to the forefront.  At times, all scaffolding is removed, so children must explain their knowledge without help, strengthening their understanding and checking for any gaps.


7: Self-Explanation

The method of self-explanation requires the student to become their own teacher. If a child can orally explain what they have learnt, their thought processes and what they need to do in a task, they demonstrate a complete understanding. Self-explanation helps children to identify where there is a gap in their knowledge or understanding.

Children engaging in the Chatta method can expect to use self-explanation in every lesson. Explaining their learning has a substantial impact on understanding, and children often are asked how they would explain it to somebody else.


8: Zone of Proximal Development

Presented as three concentric rings, Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal development highlights what a child can achieve unaided, compared to if they had received effective and strategic scaffolding from an adult. The ‘zone’ of proximal development is the outer ring where the child is now close to mastering the skill.

Scaffolding and adult support are at the heart of the Chatta method. Providing an environment where children are confident with not knowing, but know where help is, builds their confidence and ability to express their thoughts. Practitioners are ready to support children by highlighting links between learning, supporting peer work, and clarifying misconceptions.


9: Vygotsky’s Sociocultural Theory

Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory emphasises the importance of social interaction in learning and the part that society plays in cognitive development. He identifies the importance of teachers, parents and peers in how and what a child learns. The sociocultural theory highlights the fact that children will learn depending on the characteristics of their culture and environment and the opportunities within these.

Vygotsky influences much of Chatta’s approach to teaching and learning. Teachers and practitioners have a critical role because they form one of the children’s main social interactions. Through careful practitioner modelling, inner language and learning can externalise through speech.


10: Dual Coding

Dual coding theory recommends presenting information in two formats; speech and something visual, such as a photo or diagram. The children’s eyes and ears, therefore, receive information simultaneously. In combining the two representations, information is processed more efficiently and provides children with two methods to recall the information in the future.

The Chatta method adds spoken words with every image, so children will see and hear it together no matter where they are. In doing this, the child is also encouraged to convey their meaning to pictures instead of listening and copying.


11: The Modality Principle

The modality principle is a theory that applies to on-screen, multimedia learning and particularly for children learning something new. To avoid cognitive overload, it suggests that when presenting new material on the screen, it should be accompanied with speech or narration from the teacher to explain, rather than online text that children need to decipher.

One of the first steps in using the Chatta method is to remove the written word from presentations; it can interfere with the children’s thought processes, particularly for the youngest learners. Once oral practising is competent, and when they are ready, the written word can follow. 

In particular, the attention to this theory is why the Chatta method has been so popular in helping dyslexic students progress well in the classroom.


12: The Signalling Principle

The signalling principle also refers to multimedia learning and requires the teacher to highlight, circle and point out the critical information intended for the learner. It may seem obvious, but in doing this, the teacher will be telling the learner where their attention needs to be focused. It is also a method of breaking down the information further to avoid cognitive overload.

Chatta recommends that practitioners add images to the screen one at a time at the appropriate stage of a lesson. By highlighting and pointing to particular aspects of a presentation, children know where they should be looking at that time. 


13: The Redundancy Principle

The redundancy principle suggests that a practitioner should use narration and images, or narration and text, but not all three together when presenting information. If all three elements are introduced simultaneously, one will be redundant and therefore useless, as well as being likely to cause cognitive overload. 

As with The Modality Principle, the Redundancy Principle supports Chatta’s recommendation of removing the written word from a presentation. When children are competent orally, the practitioner can consider the introduction of the written word.


14: The Coherence Principle

To avoid bombarding learners with too much information, The Coherence Principle suggests, when presenting multimedia information, to leave out anything that is irrelevant or unnecessary and to avoid being too elaborate in design. Delivering new learning clearly and to the point, avoids adding unnecessary clutter to a child’s working memory, so they are more likely to remember the key parts of the lesson.

Chatta has based its approach on this principle too. Quite simply, the Chatta method cuts the clutter. Teachers use images that focus on the concept and nothing else, making it easy for children of all abilities to follow along.


15: Temporal Contiguity Principle

The Temporal Contiguity Principle suggests that any visuals and narration need to be presented at the same time. If the narration of word to picture happens before or after the visual, children are less likely to process the clear link between two representations.

The Chatta method ensures that at the beginning and throughout a session, spoken words and images are presented simultaneously and have a clear connection.


16: The Segmenting Principle

The Segmenting Principle is a technique that breaks learning down into smaller chunks rather than learning continuously. With this principle, it’s even better if the child can control the amount of learning in one go. If learning is segmented, the chances of the child understanding and retaining the information are far greater because their working memory will process more efficiently.

Breaking everything down into chunks is fundamental to the Chatta approach. Like cognitive load theory, teaching segments of a concept in a precise sequence leads to more effective learning, with children retaining more.



This list of 16 teaching techniques every practitioner should know may seem long, but it is possible to use them all to complement your teaching.

The Chatta Method is not an accident. It is designed from teaching many lessons and has evolved to include each of the 16 proven theories and techniques simultaneously. 

Through years of teaching experience and reflecting on teaching, there is one question that is always relevant, and that is, ‘does it work?’ 

Is the technique helping learners to progress? If not, what can we improve to provide the quality first teaching that children need to progress? In answer to these questions, Chatta has strived to create an approach that removes barriers to all areas of learning and is inclusive, no matter their age or experience.

To learn more about the Chatta approach and see the difference for yourself, book a free meeting with one of our team.



Teaching Theories Every Educator Should Know

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