How to improve teaching and learning?

How to improve teaching? Can poor teachers learn to be good ones? Yes, as Ray says in this post

But if it’s unrealistic to expect that we’ll ever discover a pedagogical silver bullet that makes a great teacher, it may be possible, guided by insights from social psychology, to find individual interventions that do have outsize effects on student learning at relatively modest cost.

Improving teaching is just part of the solution to improved learning. Developing autonomous and self-directing and organizing learners, even at a young age, requires more than those traditional learning approaches. It takes time, efforts and patience to grow and develop people, and test scores are only indication of the “growth” index, or the performance level, but not always that of an enriched learning experience. It’s the enjoyable, social and knowledge-rich learning experience that would add value to young learners, so they could develop their cognitive abilities throughout their early stages of development.

There are also too many assumptions and myths – by relating good or excellent teachers, and teaching to good learning. That’s not always the case, as each student is different, in terms of their learning style, maturity in cognitive and social abilities and different levels of motivation. Trying to teach students with a one-size suits all way of “best practice” would likely lead people to believe that lecture, tests, and examination is the most economical and efficient way of teaching, at a “massive” scale.

What have the students learnt? Are these based on rote learning? What level of learning have these students achieved? What sort of learning is it based on? Surface learning (rote learning, basic content understanding etc.), or strategic learning (to have good study habits, to get good score in tests, assignment, and/or examinations), or deep learning (able to transfer skills and knowledge to different situations, problem solving, creative solutions finding, creative and critical thinking, innovative approaches in learning – with self-paced, self organised and directed learning through PLE/PLN (with or without the guidance by the teachers), peer-to-peer instruction and learning, small group collaborative learning etc.)

Photo: from Google

Photo: Robotic teacher from news post.

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13 thoughts on “How to improve teaching and learning?

  1. I am confused by two things.

    Why do we talk about “bad teachers” instead of “bad teaching”? Are people really interchangeable with what they do?

    Why do we speak of “students” monolitically? Some benefit from lecture, some from guided exploration, and it may depend on the day, the mood, their intelligence, emotions, etc.

  2. Great points. In the referred post, bad teachers were referred to low performing teachers. Are people really interchangeable with what they do? I don’t think that is the case. Bad teaching may be a better way to express this, as it is pointing to the “behavior” of the teacher, rather than the person as a “bad teacher”. Many teachers are good to great teachers, only that they might not have performed to the standards expected from them. Teachers are, to some extent like learners, IMO. So, we might better focus on good to great teaching, which would help the students learn better, rather than being negative in judging and sentencing our teachers as “bad” ones, IMHO.

    I agreed that we shouldn’t speak of students monolitically, that some benefit from lecture, some from guided exploration. Good teaching are based on the needs and expectations, abilities and motivation of students. It is not about teaching everything in accordance to what the book or curriculum says, like the filling of information into empty vessels (students’ brain). Unfortunately, a lot of teaching and assessment are based on a one-size suits all strategy, as the picture on selection in my post says it all.

    What would you advise to further improve teaching and learning?

    Thanks Lisa for your valuable insights.

  3. I wish people would stop and think from their own experience: What do I do when I must absolutely know something for my professional life? What do I do? 1) I get it straight–i.e. “correct” in my mind, and then 2) I practice it, I rehearse the act of remembering and explaining it over and over, and 3) in so doing, I evolve it into its most efficient form. Teachers are stuck just on the first step, and feel successful if most students just get the answer right briefly. The notion of practicing it till it is habitual knowledge, and evolving it into its most efficient form is left to students to do “on their own time” if they want. As for the school, “we have more to cover.” What is ignored coast to coast is that if you simply aim for retained, maintained, permanent knowledge from the first, everything you learn gets easier and easier, and your habits of retention help you master a body of knowledge. Indeed there are interventions of method that can make a huge difference: understand what it means to practice something to permanence, and organize instruction around those conditions. There’s much more to say about that, of course, if anyone is interested. John Jensen jjensen@gci.net

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