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3 Before Me: A Teaching method that boosts student independence and raises team players

Most parents and educators strive to find the right balance in education between the ability to cooperate and independence. Both are essential at school and in life.

As social beings, we must learn to collaborate with our peers if we want to be part of major projects that require teamwork. We tend to focus on individuals when we talk about the major achievements of humankind, but we often forget that they were the result of cooperation between many individuals.

In 1969, Neil Armstrong made history by being the first man to walk on the Moon. But what he accomplished was the result of the collaboration between thousands of engineers, scientists, and workers from all over the country. Without cooperation, nobody would have ever walked on the Moon.

Conversely, independence is also essential for significant endeavors. When you are on your own, you need to be confident and knowledgeable enough to solve problems.

Therefore, students need to learn to be independent as well as team players. 3 Before Me is a teaching method that boosts student independence and team playing skills development. Let’s see how you can use it in the classroom! 

How does 3 Before Me work?

The basic idea of this teaching method is quite simple: before reaching out to the teacher, the student must ask for help from three different people. This first approach develops team players, allowing students to collaborate with their peers before asking their teacher for help.

Another approach focuses on independence and self-confidence: whenever they are stuck, students must try to find a solution in three different ways before reaching out to the teacher. This second approach of the method focuses on independence and self-confidence.

What does it require?

The core of the method is a growth mindset. When educators and parents focus on the learning processes and not only on the final results (as it still happens), a growth mindset is instilled in all stakeholders. Students realize that regardless of their current results, they can perform better if they keep practicing. They truly believe that progress is possible.


Read more: What’s edtech got to do with growth mindset?


Within the 3 Before Me method, students are encouraged to find answers in the classroom: books, the internet, their peers. This makes the learning process more flexible and encourages students to be more creative and feel more empowered. Obviously, the method can be used in individual and group tasks.

This approach changes the teacher’s role as the only knowledge holder and empowers students to use the best learning sources. Some feel more comfortable with books, others will prefer the internet, others will ask their classmates. All three methods are different paths that take students to the same destination: the solution for the problem.

“3 Before Me” is similar in some aspects to the flipped classroom method, but it is more flexible, as it can be used in all learning stages.


Read more: Exploring 4 types of Flipped Learning


Edtech for 3 Before Me?

It goes without saying that with a little bit of imagination – and proper edtech solutions – the “3 Before Me” method can be used in online environments as well. For instance, a learning management system (LMS) offers many collaboration opportunities between students: forums, chat rooms, one-to-one discussions, etc.


Read more: 10 Top tips for creating more effective online learning forums


An LMS can also include learning apps and can be synchronized to encyclopedias, compendiums, handbooks, and textbooks with all the necessary information for a certain subject.

Moreover, a teacher can better supervise and assess the learning progress, as it is possible to see in real-time all three solutions found by the students before being approached by them.

Concluding remarks

Some people might disagree with this method, as it takes a little longer to find a solution. However, I believe it is more beneficial for the students in the long run. If they get into the habit of reaching out to their teacher whenever they are stuck, they will not become independent and perhaps will not be confident in their ability to solve problems on their own or with the help of their peers.

They will not have a teacher for guidance every time they face a problem. Sometimes, they need to become their own teachers. 3 Before Me does precisely that: it shows students that they can find solutions to problems, individually or as part of a team.

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