During this course I have come across a variety of issues that have influenced my understanding of the role of a teacher, and in this essay I will discuss how these issues have influenced my opinion both positively and negatively and my reasons for this. First of all I will look at a couple of learning theories and whether I feel they are relevant to teaching and how I feel you can apply them to teaching practice. Multiple intelligence theory was developed by Howard Gardner.
His thesis was that individuals do not have just one type of intelligence, such as might be measured by an IQ test, but several. He described a number of intelligences, each of which was identified with a different part of the brain. He discovered that there were 9 intelligences, and that all humans possess these intelligences in varying amounts, and so the education system must cater for these varying intelligences because pupils do not learn at the same pace, same time or in the same way.
By doing this pupils are more likely to engage with the work and thus “It’s not about how smart you are – but how you are smart” Highland learning and teaching tool kit (2005). This theory was very useful in my understanding the role of a teacher. “Multiple intelligence theory helped me understand that teaching is not just about giving a child a sheet with information on it, but is about using a variety of teaching methods, in order for a child to achieve the desired learning outcomes” Gornall, S (23 October 2005) Learning Log.
So looking at this theory it seems that as a teacher when planning your lessons you must ensure that you cater for most and if possible all types of intelligences in order to engage the whole class. However I feel this would be very difficult, for example in my subject, religious education, I would find it very complicated to incorporate kinesthetic learning into my teaching and a physical education teacher would also find it hard to fit existential intelligence into their teaching. It would also not be easy to have a class doing 9 different activities at the same time.
This is because it would be difficult to keep track of their progress, as it would be hard to assess what level each child was at, and also every child has varying levels of multiple intelligence, which are not mutually exclusive and so they would need to do a variety of tasks in order to gain their full potential. We also looked at Skinners theory of operant conditioning. This theory was based on the idea that learning is a change in overt behaviour. He believed that individuals respond to changes (stimuli) in the environment and thus a change in behaviour occurs.
If this is this response is rewarded the pupil is conditioned to respond as suggested by Kearsley, G. (2005) This therefore suggests that a child’s behaviour or work should be rewarded, either through material reward, praise or good grades, in order that the child continues to behave in the desired way. This theory is very useful when applied to a classroom setting, because all children want to receive reward or praise in whatever form it takes and praise is important in keeping children motivated and keen to learn.
However I agree with the opinion of Cohen. L et al (2004, p. 177-178) in that it leads to a rather superficial, mechanistic and repetitive type of learning. It is not how I would like to teach. I would like the child to want to learn because they are interested in the subject and are thirsty for knowledge, rather than because they just want to pass their exams or receive a reward. I do however understand that reward and praise is needed in order to keep the child motivated but it should not be the only reason that I child tries hard.
I enjoyed looking at what motivates pupils, and it was interesting to see how different things work for different people. “When we discussed what motivates each other in our lecture I was very interested to find that what motivates me is not necessarily what motivates other people. For me not wanting to disappoint my parents is the biggest motivator but for others there were reasons such as self improvement, recognition and praise, not wanting to fail and material reasons such as high paid jobs. ” Gornall, S. (24 November) Learning Log.
We also looked at how to address special educational needs. During this lecture a number of students had to teach a mini lesson whilst a few students role played that they had certain problems which would hinder their progress, such as dyspraxia, colour blindness and deafness. The students who were teachers were unaware of this and therefore were being assessed on how they would deal with the situation. It was interesting to see one of the student teachers call the student pretending to be colour blind a “class clown”.
It showed that it was easy to assume that a child is being naughty or isn’t as intelligent as others. However the child can be often be misbehaving because their special needs are not being met and are struggling with the work. In my opinion this is why a number a pupils misbehaved at my secondary school. Rather than giving them special educational support I feel they were just put in the bottom sets because the teachers assumed they weren’t as bright as other pupils. Also a number of my friends at university have only just been diagnosed with dyslexia.
This helps demonstrate that it is not picked up on like it should be in schools. This helped me realise that all students are at different intellectual stages in the educational system and that some need more help than others to achieve their potential. For me it also helped me realise that although achieving high grades for my class is important, not all children are going to achieve them and even though some may only achieve a D for them it might be their full potential. As a teacher it is about setting high but achievable targets.
If you expect too much then the student could potentially give up because the work is too hard. If targets are too low, then the student will not aim for their full potential and achieve only minimal results. Looking at the topic of special educational needs, I realised that it is very important to know as much as you can about the people in your class who have special educational needs. When teaching I must find out the names and specific needs of each pupils in order that I may address them.
For instance I need to know who I need to make worksheets with a large font for, and who needs to sit at front of class because of hearing difficulties as Dean, J (1996, p116-127) discusses in his book Beginning to Teach in the Secondary School. We also came across this, because one student in our lectures requires sheets with a larger font on it, and so we all had to accommodate this when we did our group presentations, otherwise this student would not have been able to learn anything except what was oral presented. We also looked at managing behaviour in the classroom. We did this over a number of lectures.
In this topic we learned that it is best to lay down rules and expectations at the start, in order for the pupils to realise what is expected of them and also know when they are doing something wrong. This way the children cannot use the excuse that they didn’t know what they were doing was against the rules and it gives children. However “in democratic countries it cannot be emphasised enough that the purposes of education is to prepare for a mature and autonomous participant in society. In school therefore, pupils must, in the end, learn self-control and self discipline” Desforges, C. 1995, pp183).
In other words as being a teacher is not about being a dictator, telling pupils what they can and cant do, or what they should think and feel, but is about helping to develop their opinions and their own voice. I find this especially relevant in my subject in which pupils are required to develop opinions on a number of situations such as whether they think there is a God and where they think we go when we die, etc. It is also about them taking responsibility for their own work and develop advanced levels of autonomy.
However when one child misbehaves it can become contagious, and so the teacher much learn to control this behaviour. We learned in our lecture that you should not shout over the class. This is because the more you raise your voice, the more they raise theirs and you should definitely not try and compete with a class of 35 children because inevitably they will win and you will loose the respect of the class. As a teacher you must decide what it is that the school finds acceptable as well as what you are prepared to accept. Capel et al. 1995, p85) suggests: ‘If you do not rise to any bait given by pupils, but respond coolly, calmly, firmly and fairly, the pupils will soon become bored with testing you out and get on with the task of learning. ‘ Misbehaviour can be anything from shouting out to be verbally abusive towards you or another pupil. But it must be stopped when it first happens in order to stop any further misbehaviour. Looking at how to control behaviour helped me understand that being a teacher is also about being a disciplinarian; however as a teacher you must understand the difference between dominance and threat:
Dominance is the ability to control or influence the behaviour of others. Threat is behaviour which indicates that there is a risk of physical attack unless the opponent gives way. Dominance does not imply confrontation; in fact if dominance is well established, the subordination will give way without any confrontation. Threat indicates the domination is not fully established, and the more extreme the threat, the greater the risk to dominance. (Neill and Caswell 1993, p101) We also learned in our lectures how to convey confidence and authority, and also how to take the register effectively.
When giving instructions the class must be silent, in order to ensure that the class are paying attention and to show that you are the one in charge. We were also taught that the teacher should not just stand at the front of the class. By doing this you are staying in your safety zone and children are very aware of this, but by leaving your desk and circulating around the class it makes you look confident. You must remember that it isn’t that desk that is your space but you own the whole classroom and must use all the space to your advantage.
As a teacher body language is very important. ‘The way teachers communicate in a lesson surely conveys much more than facts or ideas. It conveys the kind of people they are and how they feel about other people. It also conveys the kind of attitude towards learning and teaching they have and the kind of values they hold. ‘, Sotto (1994, p100) So as a teacher you must think about how you portray yourself, by thinking about things like using friendly facial expressions such as smiling and listening and nodding attentively.
You must also think about the space between you and the student when you are talking to them, because people can become uncomfortable and defensive when you enter their personal space. Rather than be stood over a student at their desk we discussed that it would be better to crouch down at the side of a student in order to create a more equal situation. During this essay I have discussed my thoughts and feelings about a number of issues that I have studied throughout the course and also a number of other issues I have come across through my own private study and discussed in my learning log.
In studying this course I have come across a number of issues I had never thought about before. When I first started this course I thought teaching was all about getting up at the front of the class, talking to them for a bit and then getting them to do some work about what I had just discussed. However I now realise that it is about more than that. I never realised that body language would be so important in the role of a teacher.
I also never realised how many other issues you must consider when being a teacher, such as considering special educational needs, how to portray confidence and authority and how and what motivates pupils. It also made me realise what it means to me to be a teacher. For me helping to create bright, intelligent, well rounded individuals and people who can think and decide their own opinions is just as important as them getting the highest possible grades. I want them to become grown adults with qualities that will set them up and help them deal with the trial and tribulations of the real world.