Teaching is a purposeful means to help students learn. An old proverb says that given a fish, one can eat for a day; taught to fish, one can eat for a lifetime. Once learners come to understand and use thinking to learn more about the world around them, they will inevitably develop a lifetime thirst for knowledge and the skills to seek and learn on their own.
All teachers hold personal beliefs and dispositions about teaching, learning, and learners. Some teachers believe their responsibility is to teach the material, and the students’ responsibility is to learn what is taught. If students struggle or fail to learn, the responsibility rests only with the students. Teachers’ rewards are rooted in knowing that students have learned as a result of their effectiveness as teachers. When students work hard but fail to learn, the teacher must accept a large part of the responsibility. If students and teacher both work hard, the teacher should accept a large portion of responsibility when students encounter difficulties or fail to learn.
Teachers must embrace the view that effective teaching means constantly being aware of and attending to students’ struggles to learn and continually adjusting their teaching strategies and techniques to help students work through difficulties. In doing so, teachers should set high learning expectations, focus on core scientific ideas, and aim for deep, integrated understanding of scientific inquiry and the core body of scientific knowledge. To help students reach teachers’ aims and expectations, teachers must understand how learners actively construct new knowledge, as well as the complexity of the learning process, the importance of students’ interests, and students’ potential anxieties and conflicts with science concepts.
The teacher should also be able to modify instruction to help struggling and failing students improve. Teachers can monitor learning by observing and gathering data on changes in students’ actual behaviour or potential performance. Motivation drives the process of starting and continuing learning. Relevance refers to activities that give students satisfaction and meet their needs, including the chance to achieve personal learning goals. In order to capture students’ attention and activate their motivation to learn, teachers must consider the relevance of each topic. Teachers expectations of how much and how well their students will learn directly influence that learning. Teachers should set high learning expectations for all students—and encourage them to set high expectations for their own learning.
Teachers express their expectations for and beliefs about their students through both their nonverbal and verbal behaviours. Students who are believed to be high-ability learners receive more positive nonverbal feedback from teachers such as smiling and eye contact. Students believed to be low ability learners are asked fewer and less challenging questions; they also get less feedback, less time to respond, and less praise. When instruction is tracked, perceived low-ability students often receive less challenging content and are given more assignments that require rote memorization and drill-and-practice activities.
Teacher's overly high expectations for high-ability students, however, can lead to inaction when those learners do need corrective action in order to achieve. Students are sensitive to teachers’ beliefs about them. In cultures where low achievement is attributed to low ability and ability is believed to be unalterable, low-ability students often come to believe that their performance will not change regardless of their level of effort. In cultures where students level of work and effort is considered directly related to their learning, high expectations for all students lead to higher achievement through more work and effort by students of all abilities and remember teachers are meant for both of these groups.
It is the teacher who by his actions and inspiration can change the fate of millions but the question is why teachers fail to do the same. Perhaps the materialistic thinking and self centeredness is the root cause. Teachers should shun the biased approach towards student community and work with greater responsibilities.
(The author is Teacher and Columnist)