Bettering how teachers teach

Teuku Zulfikar Akarim ,  Melbourne   |  Sat, 01/10/2009 10:19 AM  |  Opinion

Adequate facilities including textbooks, laboratories, libraries and other learning equipment are important in efforts to produce intelligent students, but the most important factor here is the presence of qualified teachers.

To be able to teach effectively, teachers are expected to be both knowledgeable in content and skillful in their teaching methodology or pedagogical knowledge.

Skillful teachers are indeed important, as a failure to apply appropriate teaching methods renders the instructional process ineffective.

Having understood the importance of pedagogy, teachers should be empowered through effective teaching techniques.

Scholars in the field of teacher education, including Thomas L. Good of Arizona University and Jere E. Brophy of Michigan State University, have developed a number of techniques that can be used to empower teachers.

Two teaching methods that are considered effective in improving teachers’ knowledge of pedagogy are appreciation and power sharing.

Appreciation refers to teachers’ ability to appreciate student work, while power sharing means teachers’ willingness to reduce their domination of the classroom.

Appreciation has various manifestations depending on the education level, with different levels of education requiring different approaches. For example, elementary school teachers may prefer to use simple rewards such as issuing certificates or prizes for students who excel.

University professors may express their appreciation in different ways, for example by providing personal supervision in particular subject areas.

While appreciation may seem like a small reward for students’ success, it can boost their self-confidence and self-esteem which can in turn improve their academic performance.

Teachers are also expected to be able to create a healthy and supportive environment necessary for student learning. Power sharing means teachers do not dominate the classroom.

Teachers must not infuse their students with ideas before recognizing and acknowledging their students’ own perceptions. Teachers will never be able to fathom their students’ understanding if they do not provide them with time and space to express themselves.

In power sharing, the idea of “the truth” is not centered in teachers, but is shared among students. Power sharing enables students to have “their say” — to be heard and understood — which in turn helps teachers understand students better. The ability to understand students’ personal feelings and capacities helps teachers develop more effective teaching approaches.

The third technique worth considering is the process of self-development. This technique can be practiced through reflective teaching.

The notion of self-development has gained popularity in teacher education for its effectiveness in boosting teachers’ abilities. Several methods of reflection are available including self-video recording, peer conferences or journal keeping. Teachers using video, for example, can record themselves teaching, allowing for later observation and critique.

The cheapest method of observation, however, is through inviting other teachers to observe a colleague while teaching a class. Colleagues can provide feedback for the betterment of teaching approaches.

Teachers may also choose to reflect by keeping what is known as a reflective journal. This type of journal can help teachers to focus and determine their teaching goals. The other benefit of the reflective journal is that it permits teachers to review and evaluate their teaching experiences and revise and improve on them for the future.

The question is how can we familiarize Indonesian teachers with self criticism. At least for the time being, most teachers are probably reluctant to criticize themselves, but need to be encouraged to undertake this difficult task.

The writer is Ph.D. candidate at Monash University’s Faculty of Education.

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