Month: June 2013

Does teaching just mean standing at the front spouting all your knowledge?

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Problem-posing education

So, imagining the classroom as more of an environment where all are involved and books and worksheets are in the background just as supplementary materials, we need to have the students as active participants. We need them to express themselves and see how relative topics affect them that generate opinions. We need to challenge them and let them all be part of the class that relates to them as individuals and as part of a group. Pairwork, groupwork and class debates help all involved. We need these students to have a voice that makes them feel part of the group; that empowers them to be creative. Or should the teacher just lecture at the front?

What we need is problem-posing education.  The students need lessons, exercises, and dialogue that bring thought and opinion to the fore that makes them think about the world differently. On this theme, Paulo Freire in his book Pedagogy of the Oppressed mentions that ‘in problem-posing education, people develop their power to perceive critically the way they exist in the world with which and in which they find themselves; they come to see the world not as a static reality, but as a reality in process, in transformation (Freire, 1970: 64). He also says ‘problem-posing education bases itself on creativity and stimulates true reflection and action upon reality; thereby responding to the vocation of persons as beings who are authentic only when engaged in inquiry and creative transformation (Freire, 1970: 65).This is handy reading when thinking about your lesson plan and all the work you may put into getting it right, but you may be avoiding your best asset: the students and their input.

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Reflections on a lesson (the Critical Incident)

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John C. Flanagan talks about a ‘critical incident’ (Flanagan, 1954) that can happen. With respect to this theory from an observation I had for my lesson, once this class had finished I had a meeting with the observer and he mentioned my teacher training was more about discussion than actual instruction.

Although I was actually teaching the subject matter to a certain level, I assumed this was myself basing the lesson more on communication and giving the students access to have thoughts and opinions on the topic mentioned by me. All the same, this was now my ‘critical incident’. My observer had mentioned something that stunned me a little while making me contemplate and reflect upon. In the class, I was raising issues and theories about teaching and talking about those elements of being a teacher with the students, but my observer was highlighting that I should be wholly teaching the students the subject matter.

Although myself completely taking over the class could be unjust to the students, I felt this observation was quite true that the students should have been given more of a solid background knowledge about the subject. I need to fully (if not more) do/complete my job and give them the whole picture. It could be the case that the students can be just speaking about the subject as they (could) do without any prior knowledge of teaching. Generally speaking, we can all talk about various topics as if we have knowledge of them.

This is why this ‘critical incident’ where my observer highlighted a factor in my teaching, I have now felt (after reflection) that I have to fully complete my task as a teacher and stand there in front of the students and truly show them what I know and how the subject of the lesson should be known. It means espousing my knowledge in ways that show the students I am a qualified, professional, and proficient teacher that clearly demonstrates the topic on a level that challenges and inform the students. Thus, the level of discussion will hopefully be raised thereafter.

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Flanagan, J.C. 1954. The critical incident technique. Psychological Bulletin.