Being a teacher, I think teaching and learning is an ongoing process (Watkins and Drury,1994).Trying to understand the process of learning and how people learn is an areainto which much research has been carried, but agreement about what this shouldinclude is hard to pin down. The science of learning, depends on the art ofteaching and they both are inseparable (Feldman and McPhee, 2008). Anawareness of the learning process provides powerful insights and enablesteachers to effectively match their teaching with their students’ content,needs and situation.Teachers need to use their knowledge ofstudents’ level of understanding, as well as subject content to make professional judgments about classroom practice, and delivering aneffective lesson plan. However, I believe the art of teaching should also beinformed by a robust understanding of the learning process so that teachers canalign their decisions with the best understanding of how students learn.
The currentmovement towards more student-centred learning stems from the theories ofconstructivism and social constructivism (PDQ Core Resources, 2016). That is that students learn best when they areactively; involved in their learning and creating their own meaning around asubject either individually or socially as a group.Cognitivescience has proven that students learn new ideas by relating them to theirprior knowledge, and then transferring them into their long-term memory(Byrnes, 1964). For me as ateacher this means that teachers should make sure that students have—or shouldprovide students with—the background knowledge needed for understanding newcontent.
Students without adequate background knowledge, or who are otherwisenot given enough instructional guidance (Vygotsky,1978),can be quickly overwhelmed in the classroom.Students retain information better when theyare given many opportunities to practice retrieving it from their long termmemories (Kolb, 1984) and think about its meaning.For example while nobody likes rote or”drill and kill” assignments, repeated. I believe deliberate,meaningful practices of content can both cement student learning and make iteasier for students to remember content in the future, enabling them to tackleincreasingly complex challenges. According to this theory a carefully sequenced curriculum canbuild student knowledge over the course of a school career, enabling studentsto solve increasingly complex problems. Teachers can also help develop theseskills by providing feedback that is specific, clear, and focused on the taskand on improvement rather than on the student or her performance.
Such feedback is an important component of formativeassessment. The primary purpose of assessment isto improve students’ learning and teachers’ teaching as both respond to theinformation it provides. Traditionally, teachers use assessments tomeasure how much our students have learnt up to a particular point in time.This is called “assessment of learning” (Harlen, 2007) or what we useto see whether our students are meeting the standards set up by Cambridge InternationalExaminations. It limits the chance of creativity. It merely focusses toincrease students’ scores on high-stakes exams such as the O/A levels.
Although”assessment of learning” or “summative assessment” isimportant if we are to ascribe grades to students and provide accountability,one should also focus more on “assessment for learning”(Brown, 2005) or “formative assessment”. It is most useful part way through acourse or module, and will involve giving the students feedback which they canuse to improve their future performance (William and Thompson, 2008). Problem-solving and critical-thinking skills develop throughfeedback and depends heavily upon background knowledge, this plays a key rolein developing higher order thinking skills(Biggs and Collis, 1982).
Motivation helps a studentto learn (Ames, 1992). In my opinion ideally, students will be motivated toengage in course content because they are fascinated by it and enjoy it.Motivation is a complex phenomenon and depends, on whether a student identifieswith a particular academic setting, or whether he believes that his ability inan area can be developed with effort. I think there are a variety of steps forteachers to make sure that students feel a sense of belonging in class and thattheir effort is worthwhile. For example, giving credit for participation,engage students in decision making and avoid controlling student behavior.
Personally I think we canhelp elevate the prestige and rigor of the profession that we call teaching byemploying the best provided scientific methods and principles outlined above.