T is for TECHNOLOGY
- Technology is at the heart of the 21st century education. The question is: how can we best use technology to improve teaching and learning?
Technology can bridge the miles between us all, and it offers exciting opportunities and novel challenges for teachers. There is a host of the Internet sites with Lists of the Hottest Social Networking Sites and Mobile Apps that will transform our teaching.
We need to take the time to be comfortable with those technological tools that are useful for our students. Technology should foster meaningful learning and interaction among students. Otherwise technology can make our classes worse: e.g. Power Point Presentations are usually used in such a way that teachers read from the slides while students copy a large amount of texts which makes the classes extremely boring.
Technology can improve our teaching if we think how to really exploit technology rather than just use it. It is, also, very important that we educate the students on how to evaluate the sites and find the reliable information on the Internet on their own.
E is for EFFECT
- Teaching is a rewarding profession that allows us to make a difference in lives of our students.
Sometimes we make a profound impact on some students, but in most cases we’ll never know about it. I’ve been always happy for just a (few) student(s) in each generation to say that I encouraged them to do something differently to achieve their goals.
When I think about my education the first thing that comes to my mind are the language classes in which I was listening enthralled as my primary school teacher was reading books to us: Alice in Wonderland, Heidi, many other wonderful novels and stories… I was seven/eight years old then and those classes were magic, they kindled my imagination and developed my love of reading.
In my view, effective teaching means to equip the students with skills they can use outside of the classroom, and to develop their ability to inquire and create constructively and independently without external controls.
“That means knowing, understanding many things but also, much more important than what you have stored in your mind, to know where to look, how to look, how to question, how to challenge, how to proceed independently, to deal with the challenges that the world presents to you and that you develop in the course of your self-education and inquiry and investigations, in cooperation and solidarity with others.” (Noam Chomsky – On Being Truly Educated)
A is for AUTONOMY
- Autonomy is essential for learning and it means that students follow their own path.
Students’ impetus to learn comes from within because they control the conditions of their learning rather than working within a structure that is pre-determined and inflexible. Individual learner has self-determination, s/he can reflect, make choices, and arrive at personally constructed decisions.
In many English language classrooms today teachers choose the coursebooks, they plan the lessons and direct the activities, and they correct and assess the students’ work. Thus, in the teacher-directed classrooms we have passive learners who think that all they have to do is to attend classes, let the teachers do their job and learning will take place. In such English language classrooms teachers are responsible for students’ successful learning.
There is convincing evidence that the students who take the initiative in learning can learn more and better than do students who sit in the classrooms passively waiting to be taught.
Autonomy involves students having a range of learning strategies which they are able to apply flexibly in different contexts. It is important that teachers help students to develop learning strategies through learner training in the classroom.
For further reading:
David Nunan – Nine Steps to Learner Autonomy
Tricia Hedge – Teaching and Learning in the Language Classroom: A guide to current ideas about the theory and practice of English language teaching (Oxford Handbooks for Language Teachers) – Learner-autonomy and learner training (p.75)
C is for COMPETENCE
- Competence should be the only criterion for recruiting teachers in the 21st century.
A competent teacher is a good combination of knowledge and personal qualities (such as: patience, understanding, persistence, flexibility, sense of humour, …)
A competence is best described as ‘a complex combination of knowledge, skills, understanding, values, attitudes and desire which lead to effective, embodied human action in the world, in a particular domain’ (Deakin Crick, 2008). Competence is therefore distinguished from skill, which is defined as the ability to perform complex acts with ease, precision and adaptability.
Also, since teaching is much more than a task, and involves values or assumptions concerning education, learning and society, the concept of teacher competences may resonate differently in different national contexts.
Common ground across different cultures on the nature of teaching, teacher learning and teachers’ competences can be outlined in six broad paradigms, which should be seen as integrated, complementary aspects of the profession (Paquay& Wagner, 2001):
- the teacher as a reflective agent
- the teacher as a knowledgeable expert
- the teacher as a skillful expert
- the teacher as a classroom actor
- the teacher as a social agent
- the teacher as a lifelong learner
For further reading: http://ec.europa.eu/education/policy/school/teacher-training_en.htm
H is for HUMAN CONNECTION
In recent years the Internet has provided a wonderful platform for teachers to connect, share advice, ideas and experiences (e.g. Facebook, Blogging, Google+, Twitter…). Teachers find PLNs (Personal Learning Networks) useful for connecting with like-minded people worldwide and for keeping up-to-date with current ideas. Twitter is the most powerful of the current social networks, and an amazing swap shop for teacher ideas and materials.
The use of social networking sites in teaching and learning has both positive and negative consequences. It can improve our teaching and learning, it can help us to gain an understanding of other cultures, be in contact with people all over the world, maintain and strengthen relationships, communicate effectively with others.
It is a paradox, however, that using social networking sites can cause people to be distracted, overly stressed, and increasingly isolated. In my opinion this should not necessarily be such a great problem if we are well-organized and learn how to prioritize our work. Having a particular place and an amount of time allotted for being online can be a very good idea.
We should have in mind that computer mediated communication may initiate many relationships and friendships today, but it is still face-to-face human interaction that solidifies and gives a deeper layer of meaning to those interactions.
E is for ENTHUSIASM
When we work, we are not motivated purely by external goods, such as pay or profit – there is also an essential need for living a fulfilled and worthwhile life. Students are our constant source of inspiration. They motivate us and bring out the best of us as teachers when we see them learn and improve every day.
Unfortunately, most teachers today are not autonomous in making decisions, they have to conform to some rules, regulations, and plans, most of which are formulated by the people who are not informed or have no understanding of a truly effective teaching.
Teaching against our beliefs and opinions about what is right and professional, can considerably dampen our enthusiasm. However, despite many difficulties (just to mention very low teachers’ salaries in my country, for example), there are some great teachers who never give up and do their best to improve educational system and push the things forward.
R is for REFLECTING
Summer sky (photo taken from my window) by Ljiljana Havran
Good teachers are committed to lifelong learning and professional development and they strive for continuous improvement through reflective practice.
It is very important to review and revise some of the beliefs about ELT pedagogy every year as we reflect on our practice, listen to our students’ feedback, exchange ideas with colleagues at CPD events or on social media, read about research.
I would like to encourage my colleagues to start a blog or a teaching journal and/or create an account on Twitter as soon as possible.
Also, my suggestion for the beginning of the new school year is: make a list of the questions regarding teaching/learning and reflect on them. The first question I’d put on my list would be:
What would I like my students to do independently? How can I get them to want to improve their language skills independently?