You Mean You Actually Teach in Class?
01st November 2017
by Tania Pugliese
Reams have been written on the characteristics of an effective teacher and, if I had to answer the question myself, I would probably wind up writing a long list of do’s and don’ts as many before me have done. However, the best answer is personified in some of the best teachers I’ve ever seen in action. The one characteristic that all effective teachers have in common is that they don't teach. I can see those eyebrows going up. How can you teach without teaching?
The bottom line is that good teachers care about their students. The old saying is true: students don’t care how much a teacher knows, but they want to know that a teacher cares. Of course, as a teacher, you need to know your content, but as an effective teacher you also need to be a great performer and storyteller in order to capture your students' attention and get across the meaning of that content not by talking at the students but by putting them at the forefront of the learning experience.
So how can we do this in the classroom? Create a need for learning. For example, set a project that urges the students to learn skills or knowledge and then give them the chance to demonstrate what they can do. Keep the students engaged by developing their sense of enquiry and help them explore and discover the things they can do for themselves, then celebrate those achievements.
The principle is quite simple. We learn best when we are in control of our learning. Real learning takes place through doing, not just listening, or observing. So when we’re lecturing or presenting, we’re still just talking at the students. Though it certainly is the quickest and easiest way to “teach”, it is far from the most effective.
Obviously direct instructions are still necessary at times, but only to guide the students when they’re doing something with their knowledge or skills. The moral of this lesson? Rather than throw out the baby and the bathwater, consider throwing your students in at the deep end. Then the lesson on how to swim becomes very relevant and leads to real performance-based learning.