Rethinking Classroom Teaching
“The aim of teaching is simple: it is to make student learning possible”
While the aim may be simple, the process is not. The variety of teaching approaches shows the breadth and depth of the learning process and no one approach is suitable for all learning all the time. All approaches have their strengths and weaknesses. So rather than pontificating on one teaching approach over another, we need to ask ourselves the following:
- What do my students need to learn?
- What is the best teaching-learning approach to make that learning possible?
- How do I mediate the learning to ensure students are learning what they need to learn?
Sometimes direct instruction can be more effective than an inquiry based approach. Sometimes problem based learning is exactly the approach we need to help students acquire certain skills like critical thinking.
Some interesting info on teacher time from:
• In South Korea – much like Japan and Singapore – only about 35 percent of teachers’ working time is spent teaching pupils. Teachers work in a shared office space during out-of-class time, since the students stay in a fixed classroom while the teachers rotate to teach them different subjects. The shared office space facilitates sharing of instructional resources and ideas among teachers, which is especially helpful for new teachers. Teachers in many of these countries engage in intensive lesson study in which they develop and fine-tune lessons together and evaluate their results.
• In Finland, teachers meet one afternoon each week to jointly plan and develop curriculum, and schools in the same municipality are encouraged to work together to share materials.
• In Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Hungary, Ireland, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland more than 85% of schools provide time for professional development in teachers’ work day or week.
• In Singapore, the government pays for 100 hours of professional development each year for all teachers in addition to the 20 hours a week they have to work with other teachers and visit each others’ classrooms to study teaching. With the help of the National Institute of Education, teachers engage in collective action research projects to evaluate and improve their teaching strategies.