NIU professor’s book focuses on non-traditional teaching methods

By Matt Gronlund

Teachers looking to improve on their teaching skills may want to read “Lasting Lessons: A Teacher’s Guide to Reflecting on Experience” by Clifford Knapp.

The author, Clifford Knapp, is a professor of outdoor teacher education at NIU’s Lorado Taft Field Campus near Oregon, Ill. Lorado Taft is devoted to the education of teachers.

The book “focuses on the experiences kids have, and helps teachers guide them through the process of meaning making,” Knapp said.

Outdoor education is an approach to learning using classrooms outside of the traditional school classroom, such as field trips.

“Outdoor education is one way to improve teaching and learning through direct experience,” Knapp said, “but direct experience is not enough.”

Knapp said that “if such experiences are to be more meaningful and applied to life situations, teachers must help students learn from carefully planned and guided reflective sessions.”

A reflective session “helps expand the meaning of an experience,” Knapp said. In a reflective session, a student might compare questions, such as the why and the how, of what happened in an activity. They might then relate and apply this to other experiences in their life.

Using reflective sessions is “one of the more ignored teaching skills,” Knapp said. “‘A Teacher’s Guide to Reflecting Experience’ can help teachers focus on the importance of those skills,” Knapp said.