Sunday, July 17, 2011

BELIEFS ABOUT TEACHING AND LEARNING

This is part of what I have been asked to write for the iTDi project I referred to in my previous post. If you happen to agree or, most importantly, disagree with my views, please let me know why. Students' observations concerning the learning procedure also constitute valuable feedback.

What beliefs do you have about teaching and learning?

I believe that teaching is about successfully transmitting the knowledge one has, employing a variety of methods, to people who are willing to absord the new information. At least, this is how the situation should be like ideally.

How do people learn?

They learn in a variety of ways by being presented with all kinds of input which can be visual, acoustic and kinaesthetic (i.e. involving bodily movement). Even if a student seems to prefer a specific learning style, exposure to a combination of authentic or semi-authentic material invariably helps. Of course, the ‘spice’ added by technology and traditional book reading includes most of the aforementioned ‘channels’ of knowledge.

What's the best way to teach?

There doesn’t seem to be a ‘secret’ that you can tell someone and immediately turn them into extraordinary teachers! As I have written in one of my blog posts:

“I was mostly enchanted by Luke Prodromou's impressive talk, but also presence. What he said was that there are no characteristics of an ideal teacher. One can constantly smile, be friendly and polite to students, stand and walk around the classroom, implement communicative activities and so forth, but the students may still not learn. On the contrary, Mr Prodromou has seen teachers sitting at their desks, barricaded behind a pile of books, being very strict, but actually having the children's full attention and encouraging active participation in the lesson. Therefore, there is no checklist for what is right or wrong when teaching; what a teacher does with all the techniques is what matters.” 

However, I do remember Mr Prodromou saying that if there is a quality to characterize a good teacher, that is, according to global research, friendliness. Therefore, if I were to draw a final conclusion, I would say that being friendly and very positive towards your profession and the people sitting in front of you in class every day will surely bring, in one way or another, the desired outcome: that is, it will make people want to come back to you to experience more of the activities you will have prepared for them. This is when you know there is a good teacher around!

How do you know when a student learns something?

That is a very difficult question to answer because you can never know for sure what exists in an individual mind! The same problem needs to be faced by every examiner who has to measure the candidate’s ability in a matter of minutes (concerning the speaking part of the test.) However, the best indication a teacher can get about a student’s knowledge lies in the reproduction of the foreign language. Do students use the new vocabulary or grammar when they speak? Do they accurately incorporate it in their writing? If so, then they must have mastered the material taught. In the future, though, they may repeat some mistakes, which is an inevitable part of language use and ... of human nature!

What is your goal in each class?

My goal in lessons of all levels is first to revise what has previously been said to check upon existing knowledge and, then, enhance it with new material, ideas and tasks. One of the things I never fail to do is put on a smiling face, no matter the circumstances, and end the lesson on a positive note.

What's a good metaphor for teaching? What's a good metaphor for learning?

Teaching is like acting on a stage where the performers try to pass on a certain feeling or even message to the audience. The learners are not merely passive listeners; they can be summoned on stage and decisively change the course of the play.

Complete the sentences: 

Teaching is ... giving a part of one’s soul and mind. Learning is ... accepting this gift and transforming it into one’s own property.


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