Teachers must carry out activities that will stimulate their students’ interests and actively engage them in class.
IT IS a very basic equation. When you try out certain teaching plans or methods with your students, they will improve by leaps and bounds in terms of achievement, success, prowess and performance.
But, before a teacher even gets there, the first thing she or he needs to address is to answer the following question – “What do my students really want from me?”
Seriously, this is one question not many teachers ask of themselves before they begin their daily rounds of teaching.
But, it is one they should. So say researchers Richard Strong, Harvey F. Silver and Amy Robinson.
It is hard to doubt the word of these researchers and their published findings in the September 1995 online issue of Educational Leadership.
I did not. In fact, I found that ever since I understood the importance of their research, I became a better teacher almost overnight.
Their premise is convincing: If you wish to get students to really like the way you teach, then you have to be aware that students are, in fact, “energised by four goals - success, curiosity, originality, and satisfying relationships.
The research project they carried out asked both teachers and students two simple questions:
·What kind of work do you find totally engaging?
· What kind of work do you hate to do? The researchers found that both teachers and students hate work that is “repetitive, required little or no thought, and was forced on them by others”.
Yes, that should explain why teachers do not like redundant paperwork and non-teaching tasks they are assigned to do on a regular basis! It also explains why students hate copying endless notes and doing mundane academic tasks.
Writing this, I am reminded of a very intelligent Form Three student I taught in 2010. During my Civics period, he had asked me a question about Stephen Hawking and that had got us talking.
Noticing that he had his Mathe-matics book open in front of him, I asked him whether he enjoyed studying the subject at school. He told me “No” and followed this by explaining that the way his teacher taught was so routine and predictable that she was boring him.
And, then he said, in resignation, “She kills Mathematics for me! I wish I could do more challenging stuff but what can I say?”
“Have you ever told her that?” I asked.
He looked up and me and said incredulously, “You must be joking!Do you think she cares to know what I think?”
The only teacher he liked was a language teacher he had had in Form One whom he described as charismatic, lively and interesting.
Not only had she bonded well with her students, she had also carried out numerous activities in the classroom, and had even allowed them to work in groups.
When you think of it, what do students really want from you?
“Engaging work!” reported Strong and his co-researchers. This included tasks that “stimulate student curiosity, permit them to express their creativity, and foster positive relationships with others.”
To make it easy for teachers, the researchers have come up with the acronym SCORE as a means by which teachers can carry out a mindful self-check to make sure that they are providing what their students really need from them.
What do the letters in this acronym stand for?
S – SUCCESS: Students want to be able to master the subject. To this end, they like teachers who give clear instruction, quality presentations, helpful guidance and skill-honing workshops.
A teacher has to have the right personality and teaching techniques to give students the confidence that success is within their reach.
From experience, I can say that students reap huge benefits when they are shown past examples of good, mediocre and poor work and given constructive and regular feedback on their performance.
C – CURIOSITY: Students want to be able to understand concepts and new knowledge.
My students have openly confessed to me that they prefer teachers who relate examples to their own life as well as encourage creative games and fun activities like jigsaw puzzles or debates to stir discussion.
They even enjoy being provided some clues and then asked to come up with possible solutions rather than being spoon-fed. I realised the power of their “why” questions and I often made them think of possibilities rather then tell them all the facts.
In my classes, I allowed “weird” and “outlandish” questions. To me, hearing them really speak their mind and then, discussing the possible answers with them made the journey of discovery all the more interesting for both of us.
O – ORIGINALITY: Students thrive on self-expression but what often happens at school is that teachers suppress this without realising they are actually doing so.
“Make creative work meaningful,” say the researchers. For instance, you don’t have to teach Mathematics or Chemistry all the time according to how the questions are phrased in the exams, do you?
Occasionally, how about a change in the way you teach?
I found that I was more effective when I let my students be more involved in the learning process.
Presentations, debates, discussions, group work, role play, fieldwork, games – there are many ways in which students can express themselves.
R – RELATIONSHIPS: Students want to be involved with others during the learning process. My best lessons happened when I conducted activities (the best were spontaneous ones) when I followed my students’ moods and allowed them to be involved.
I remember a class when we were all in a stupor because of the heat. One boy had his guitar with him and I requested a song from him and his “band” as a way to get things going.
Since students appreciate the opportunity to interact in a creative manner in an open, accepting atmosphere, we had a most enjoyable lesson.
Too often, the class is quiet — with the teacher lecturing, doing, acting and controlling everything. Bonding, interacting, chatting, asking probing questions, responding to answers and stimulating further enquiry – all these engage the students more
When allowed to mingle and work in groups of their own choice, students become more lively.
Fearing high noise levels and problems arising out of control issues, teachers often resort to the “I talk, you listen” strategy and end up wondering why students are bored and listless.
E – According to the researchers, if you give them all of the above, students will then have the ENERGY and I may add, the ENTHUSIASM to learn!
·What teachers must do is realise two things :
What students really want from them is to have their S.C.O.R. needs fulfilled.
To achieve this, teachers must carry out activities that cultivate these drives in the classroom.
I tried it and it worked. Perhaps you should too.
Teacher Talk by NITHYA SIDHHU
Source: The STAR Home Education Sunday April 1, 2012