Pen & Paper

Of Teaching

11 Feb 2013

Teaching is, to many of us, a transfer of knowledge and skills; to others, it is to enable assimilation and accommodation of information for constructing new knowledge. Both are relevant. No matter which theory we believe and whatever teaching strategy we adopt, getting the students to understand what is being taught and enabling them to apply what has been learned must remain the common goals of teaching.

Teaching involves a combination of effort in explaining, instructing, demonstrating and guiding. Theoretical models help an educator design an ideal mix of explanation, instruction, demonstration and guidance. Their optimal proportions, however, depends on the target audience’s stages of cognitive development as well as the subject matter. Too much explanation, the teaching becomes dry and uninteresting; not enough and the students lose sight of the goalpost. Too strict a guideline kills creativity and inhibits discovery; too loose and the students may wander too far off track aimlessly.

The ideal mix is produced not by any theories but by an experienced teacher based on his/her interaction with the class and the students’ feedback. Teaching is perfected by experience. A person is never born an excellent teacher; he/she continues to learn while he/she teaches. Had there been a formula for excellence in teaching, we would have a world full of excellent teachers. We don’t.

Like a student who needs motivation to learn, a teacher must be motivated to teach. Teaching and learning is mutually complementary in the relationship between a teacher and his/her students. Effective learning will only take place in a class that is attentive and enthusiastic to learn; similarly, teaching is effective only when a teacher is eager and passionate to teach. Teaching becomes no more than a transfer of lecture notes from a teacher to his/her students in the absence of motivation.