By Ayodeji Abiola
I am not trying to be Stephen Covey right now, but I have borrowed from his book’s title to drive this piece about what makes a great teacher. Teachers are the heart of our educational system and if we hope to churn out excellent learners, then our teachers must be remarkably good at teaching. Most college and university teachers today were not professionally trained as teachers. Of course, they are good at what they do, be it Science, Engineering, Arts, Finance, but teaching them requires a different set of skills. If a student fails or underperforms, we quickly label them as lazy, dull or un-teachable. This is without regard to the teacher’s probable role in their poor performance? Let’s examine 7 practices teachers should adopt in other to be highly effective and record high student “success” rate.
1. Delivers well-structured lessons: A highly effective teacher comes to class prepared to deliver the lesson’s content in a structurally balanced form. This allows the students to follow the logic of the contents. The simplest way to structure a lesson is to use the Set-Body-Close model. During the Set, the teacher opens the lecture and “Tells them what she will be teaching them”. This is like the abstract, overview or opening remark stage. This stage allows the learner to know what they will be taught through that lesson. The Body is the actual lesson. This is the part where the teacher actually “Tells them what she is teaching them”. It is the heart of the lesson period. For the Close, the teacher summarizes and ends the lesson by “Telling them what she has taught them”. This is the final review stage where she checks that all that was planned has been taught. It is also a time to create a bridge for the next coming lesson. So, in a well-structured lesson, an effective teacher will:
a. Tell them what she wants to teach them – Set
b. Tell them what she is teaching– Body, and
c. Tell them what she has taught them – Close.
2. Emphasizes important facts and keywords: Learners need to know what facts, theories, definition or keyword are important in the contents of a lesson. A highly effective teacher makes sure this happens. Depending on the format of the lesson, the teacher can do this by underlying keywords in class notes, use emphatic effects on lesson PowerPoint or keynote presentations, etc. If a student knows that this is important, they will be careful to remember them. They should also know how those important elements are interrelated and fit into the bigger context of the lesson.
3. Says it again, and again: Repetition should be a teacher’s habit. When a teacher repeats, the learners have the opportunity to hear it again. Hearing again reinforces the lesson. Repetition also helps to regulate the pace of teaching. If a class is too fast for students to follow, then the whole time may be spent merely covering the syllabus, rather than teaching it. The goal of a classroom teaching is for students to learn, not just to cover a syllabus.
4. Encourages active learning: Active learning is a developing model of instruction that transforms the teacher from a sage to a guide. A sage, being the all-wise person, who learners simply stoop to listen and learn from, whereas a guide is a facilitator who helps learners navigate a new territory. A class with active learning activities directly engages students in the learning process. Common active learning activities, include mini-discussion groups, think-pair-share, games, hands-on activities, etc. These activities have been shown to improve retention for learners.
5. Accommodates students with different learning styles: All students do not learn the same way. A variety of learning styles exist for different individuals. The traditional lecture styles usually appeal more to auditory and sometimes visual learners. Such lesson will not suit the need of a kinesthetic learner. A more effective approach is to design class lessons to adopt elements of various learning styles. A highly effective teacher will seek to understand which learning style best suit her students and adapt the teaching around them.
6. Sets up office hours: In many of our post-secondary institutions, departments and lecturers do not usually set up specific time to meet with student one-on-one. These times are as important as normal class lessons. Office hours give students the opportunity to meet the teacher alone or in small groups to clarify contents they do not fully understand. It is also a time for the teacher to engage more closely and understand the needs of individual students. A highly effective teacher will setup such time at least once a week.
7. Provides timely and appropriate feedback:The quality of feedback is very important for true learning to take place. A useful feedback is once that is constructive and timely. A good feedback should:
a. Mention what has been done well,
b. Point out what can be improved and
c. Focus on changeable action(s).
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