24 February, 2009

Teaching & Nonverbal Communication

By C. Radhakrishnan

As teachers we always take care of what we speak in the classroom. But, do you ever think of your nonverbal communication in the classroom? Experts say that nonverbal communication is as important as verbal communication in teaching-learning process.

Why should teachers know nonverbal behaviours?
• Knowledge of nonverbal behaviour will allow you to become better receivers of students' messages.
• You will become a better sender of signals that reinforce learning.
• This method of communication increases psychological closeness between teacher and student.

What are the major nonverbal behaviours?
Major nonverbal behaviours are eye contact, facial expressions, gestures, posture and body orientation, proximity, paralinguistics and humour.

1. Eye Contact is an important means of interpersonal communication which helps control the flow of communication. Teachers who make eye contact open the flow of communication and convey interest, concern, affection and credibility.

2. A facial expression is another major area to be explored for improving nonverbal communication. Smiling is a powerful sign that transmits: happiness, friendliness, warmth, liking and relationship. Thus, if you smile always you will be perceived as more friendly, warm and approachable. Smiling is often contagious and students will react favourably and learn more.

3. Gestures convey a lot to the learners. If you fail to gesture while speaking, you may be perceived as boring, stiff and unanimated. A lively and animated teaching style captures students' attention, makes the material more interesting, facilitates learning and provides a bit of entertainment. Head nods, a form of gesture, communicate positive reinforcement to students and indicate that you are listening. Avoid making typical gestures every time.

4. Posture and body orientation communicate many messages by the way you walk, talk, stand and sit. Standing erect, but not rigid, and leaning slightly forward communicates to students that you are approachable, receptive and friendly. Furthermore, interpersonal contact results when you and your students face each other. Speaking with your back turned or looking at the floor or ceiling or black board should be avoided; it communicates disinterest to your class. Always talk to the eyes.

5. Proximity: Our cultural norms dictate a comfortable distance for interaction with students. You should look for signals of discomfort caused by invading students' space. Typically, in large classrooms space invasion is not a problem. In fact, there is usually too much distance between the teacher and student in Indian classrooms. To avoid this, move around the classroom to increase interaction with your students. Increasing proximity allows you to make better eye contact and increases the opportunities for students to speak.

6. Paralinguistic includes vocal elements such as tone, pitch, rhythm, quality of sound, loudness and modulation. For maximum teaching effectiveness, learn to vary these six elements of your voice. One of the major criticisms is of teachers who speak in a monotone. Students perceive these teachers as boring and dull. Students say that they learn less and lose interest more quickly when listening to teachers who have not learned to modulate their voices.

7. Humour is often ignored as a teaching tool, and it is too often not encouraged in school classrooms. Laughter releases stress and tension for both teacher and student. You should develop the ability to laugh at yourself and encourage students to do the same. It promotes a friendly classroom environment that facilitates better learning.

Obviously, adequate knowledge of the subject matter is crucial to your success; however, it's not the only crucial element. Creating a climate, that facilitates learning and retention demands good nonverbal and verbal skills. To improve your nonverbal skills, record your video and watch it yourself or get the help of a colleague or an expert and find suggestions for refinements. Talking in front of a mirror is also an excellent technique to find and correct negative nonverbal gestures.


1. Kyriacou, Chris (2005); “Essential Teaching Skills”; Nelson Thornes Ltd, UK – High Range School Library, TTL, Mattupatti.
2. http://www.blatner.com/adam/level2/nverb2.htm
3. http://www.fhsu.edu/~zhrepic/Teaching/GenEducation/nonverbcom/nonverbcom.htm

Essential Skills for Success in Teaching

Workshop Handout by C. Radhakrishnan

The spirit of being an effective teacher lies in understanding what to do to promote students’ learning and being able to do it. Effective teaching skill is mainly concerned with setting up a learning activity for each student which is successful in bringing about the type of learning the teacher intends. Development of teaching skills depends mainly on teacher’s motivation and professional integrity. Teachers who want to succeed and reach greater heights in this profession should incorporate the following seven essential skills.

1. Planning and Preparation

a. The lesson plan has clear and appropriate aims and objectives.
b. The content methods and structure of the lesson selected are appropriate for the pupil learning intended.
c. The lesson is planned to link up appropriately with past and future lessons.
d. Materials, resources and aids are well prepared and checked in good time.
e. All planning decisions take account of the students and the context.
f. The lesson is designed to elicit and sustain student’s attention, interest and involvement.

2. Lesson Presentation
a. The teacher’s manner is confident, relaxed, self-assured and purposeful, and generates interest in the lesson.
b. The teacher’s instructions and explanations are clear and matched to students’ needs.
c. The teacher’s questions include a variety of types and range and are distributed widely.
d. A variety of appropriate learning activities are used to foster student learning.
e. Students are actively involved in the lesson and are given opportunities to organise their own work.
f. The teacher shows respect and encouragement for students’ ideas and contributions, and fosters their development.
g. The work undertaken by students is well matched to their needs.
h. Materials, resources and aids are used to good effect.

3. Lesson Management
a. The beginning of the lesson is smooth and prompt, and sets up a positive mental set for what is to follow.
b. Student s’ attention, interest and involvement in the lesson are maintained.
c. Students’ progress during the lesson is carefully monitored.
d. Constructive and helpful feedback is given to students to encourage further progress.
e. Transitions between activities are smooth.
f. The time spent on different activities is well managed.
g. The pace and flow of the lesson is adjusted and maintained at an appropriate level throughout the lesson.
h. Adjustments to the lesson plan are made whenever appropriate.
i. The ending of the lesson is used to good effect.

4. Classroom Climate

a. The climate is purposeful, task-oriented, relaxed, and with an established sense of order.
b. Students are supported and encouraged to learn, with high positive expectations conveyed by the teacher.
c. Teacher- student relationships are largely based on mutual respect and rapport.
d. Feedback from the teacher contributes to fostering student self-confidence and self-esteem.
e. The appearance and layout of the class are conducive to positive student attitudes towards the lesson and facilitate the activities taking place.

5. Discipline
a. Good order is largely based on the positive classroom climate established and on good lesson presentation and management.
b. The teacher’s authority is established and accepted by students.
c. Clear rules and expectations regarding pupil behaviour are conveyed by the teacher at appropriate times.
d. Student behaviour is carefully monitored and appropriate actions by the teacher are taken to pre-empt misbehaviour.
e. Students’ misbehaviour is dealt with by an appropriate use of investigation, counselling, academic help, reprimands and punishments.
f. Confrontations are avoided, and skilfully resolved.

6. Assessing pupils’ progress
a. The marking of students’ work during and after lesson is thorough and constructive, and work is returned in good time.
b. Feedback on assessments aims not only to be diagnostic and corrective, but also to encourage further effort and maintain self-confidence, which involves follow-up comments, help or work with particular students as appropriate.
c. A variety of assessment tasks are used, covering both formative and summative purposes.
d. A variety of records of progress are kept.
e. Some opportunities are given to foster students’ own assessments of their work and progress.
f. Assessment of students’ work is used to identify areas of common difficulties, the effectiveness of the teaching, and whether a firm basis for further progress has been established.
g. Assessment is made of the study skills and learning strategies employed by pupils in order to foster their further development.

7. Reflection and evaluation
a. Lessons are evaluated to inform future planning and practice.
b. Current practices are regularly considered with a view to identifying aspect for useful development.
c. Use is made of a variety of ways to reflect upon and evaluate current practice.
d. The teacher regularly reviews whether his or her time and effort can be organised to better effect.
e. The teacher regularly reviews the strategies and techniques he or she uses to deal with sources of stress.

1.Kyriacou, Chris - Essential Teaching Skills - Nelson Thornes - The High Range School Library, TTL, Mattupatti.
2.Kyriacou, Chris - Effective Teaching in Schools - Nelson Thornes - The High Range School Library, TTL, Mattupatti.

Happy learning & Teaching!

22 February, 2009

Honing the Tools of Teaching - How Research Can Improve Teaching for the 21st Century?

By Rick Allen (from 'Curriculum Update')

The world seems to divide good teachers into two categories. Some people see teaching as an art, where a teacher with innate talent develops her gift as if by some genetic predisposition. Other people place emphasis on knowledge of content, where any teacher can teach—as long as he knows his subject area. These biases seem to leave little room for teachers to look closely at how they teach in the classroom.

"Discussions about research on instructional practices are not sought after and not well received," says Robert Marzano, coauthor of the ASCD book Classroom Instruction That Works: Research-Based Strategies for Increasing Student Achievement.

But the definition of content standards and the public pressures of the accountability movement are encouraging more districts and teachers to take a closer look at research-based instructional practices that improve student motivation and achievement, say researchers.

Oddly enough, some of these teaching strategies don't seem particularly new—identifying similarities and differences, note taking, and homework and practice, for example. The cumulative knowledge of more than 30 years of research, however, is what "validates their usefulness," insists Marzano.

Converging Evidence
Professors of education like Michael Dickmann at Cardinal Stritch University in Milwaukee find that when teachers gain a deeper understanding of old and new instructional strategies, they tend to use them more.

"For a long time, teachers had the models of instruction, but they didn't know the 'why?'" says Dickmann, co-author with Nancy Stanford-Blair of Connecting Leadership to the Brain.

The evidence from neuroscience, cognitive science, and clinical studies as well as theoretical constructs from evolutionary biology, archaeology, and philosophy converge in support of certain instructional practices, says Dickmann. "You put all that together and the black box opens up," he suggests.

Dickmann points to cooperative learning as an example. "Hard research now enables educators to look through the lenses of physiological, social, emotional, constructive, reflective, and dispositional dimensions of the way the brain learns," he says.

Cooperative learning physiologically engages more of the brain's neural networks through the stimulation of sensory information from kinesthetic, visual, and auditory input. A teacher who studies the research would also better understand how cooperative learning taps into students' "natural capacities to be engaged socially and emotionally" and supports their efforts to construct knowledge and apply it in problem solving, says Dickmann.

Ultimately, research on the subject can enlighten teachers about how cooperative learning can foster learning dispositions or mental habits that can help students throughout their lives, he adds.

Dickmann likens the "breakthrough in knowledge" about instructional practices to the work of Louis Pasteur, the microbiologist famed for his discovery in 1857 that infectious diseases are caused by germs. It is not enough for such new knowledge to be available, explains Dickmann; "there has to be a perceptual shift" so such discoveries might be practically applied. Often there is a lag time between great scientific theories and their application in everyday situations. For example, Pasteur's findings were not immediately used to prevent wounded soldiers from contracting fatal infections. Similarly, some teachers hesitate to tap into the practical benefits of research-based strategies.

Putting Research to Work
Although years of evidence points to certain instructional practices as keys to promoting student achievement, sustaining such strategies in the classroom is an arduous process that calls for commitment on every level. In northeast Iowa, a group of school districts serving 38,000 students has been hard at work for 10 years crafting and refining a plan that promotes the latest research-based instructional strategies. The districts use the strategies as a key component of a larger vision of well-planned curriculum alignment that can increase student achievement.
Administrators in the region wanted an alternative to the kind of professional development that entailed having a "big inspirational speaker" descend in August—just when teachers need to be preparing to teach, says Nancy Lockett, staff development coordinator for Iowa's Area Education Agency 7. AEA7, which oversees 26 independent school districts, including Waterloo, Cedar Falls, and surrounding rural areas, wanted to cultivate a "common language and critical mass" of research-based best practices that would "hit all administrators, teachers, and counselors."

The plan calls for a sea change in how teachers approach classroom instruction, student engagement, and lesson planning. Over the years, staff in participating school districts have learned about the latest research on brain-based learning, student assessment, and standards and benchmarks. After taking all this information in, teachers complained that it was difficult to incorporate strategies into lesson planning because the information was never at hand, Lockett recalls. Looking up the right strategy in books, notebooks, binders, file folders, and old workshop handouts was too time consuming. To help solve the difficulty of a wealth of strategies, the agency created a 30-page booklet of strategies it called the "skinny book" to help teachers plan lessons.

Consultants also advised school districts to reduce the number of standards and benchmarks for each subject area, so teachers would concentrate lessons on what students needed to know most to be successful.

Finally, the area education agency developed the Linking Learning, Teaching and Curriculum (LLTC) program to assist teachers with aligning the selection of strategies with curriculum, assessment, and broader educational goals. This program also allowed teachers and administrators from different districts to coordinate professional development that addressed common concerns.

Teachers from the 18 districts that have signed on to the agency's LLTC program set their own training agendas by identifying the strategies they want to master. Lockett recently led a group of 60 middle school teachers who wanted to enhance their use of cooperative learning. Teachers arrived with baseline data about the current level of "engaged behavior" in their classrooms' cooperative learning groups, then experimented with a variety of strategies to improve their use of the groups. These teachers' ultimate goal, says Lockett, is "to help kids learn to think deeply, work together better, and organize learning visually."

Tailoring Teaching

Over the years, teachers have been exposed to a variety of strategies from experts—such as Marzano or Patricia Wolfe, who specializes in brain-compatible instructional practices—who have developed strong professional relationships with the teaching staff, says Edward Redalen, director of educational services for AEA7.
"An external consultant with expertise and charisma can unlock things for you," says Redalen. "And experts say they like coming back because we follow up on using the strategies."

After an inservice session has given teachers the "basic chocolate cake recipe," they are encouraged to adapt a variety of strategies into a rich combination that meets their specific classroom needs, says Lockett.

Of the numerous instructional strategies available, lateral thinking expert Edward de Bono's Plus, Minus, Interesting approach (PMI) has worked well to open up brainstorming sessions in teacher Pattie Bailey's gifted and regular classrooms. PMI, which looks at pros, cons, and interesting aspects of an idea or proposal, has proved useful in Bailey's social studies classes and even in her reading curriculum.
"Students will often come up with a statement that begins, 'What if this happened . . .?' so we can apply PMI to foster discussion" about some line of thought that intrigues them, says Bailey.

Another strategy she has used with 4th graders is Consequences and Sequel (C&S), which prods students to focus on the immediate, short-term, medium-term, and long-term consequences of actions taken by a story character or historical figure.
Bailey, who teaches math for 5th graders and gifted students at Reinbeck Elementary School and gifted students at Gladbrook-Reinbeck High School, advises that no single strategy is going to meet the needs of all students. Bailey has to do "lots of pre-testing," she says, and work with students to get to know their optimum learning styles.

For example, some of Bailey's gifted high school students want to try out many scenarios when deciding what to write for a Future Problem Solving essay, an international program for creative thinking that involves a changing roster of topics—from education to virtual corporations. Other students "need time to think the whole period," she says. Recognizing such student differences, Bailey allows for a variety of approaches.
Dan Flaharty, who teaches math and health at Jesup High School in Jesup, Iowa, has found visual organizers, such as a table of rubrics, helpful. At the beginning of the year, Flaharty and students together develop a rubric about expectations and goals for class learning. In terms of content, for instance, he uses rubrics to help students monitor whether they've correctly carried out all the steps for solving an algebraic equation.

"They acquire higher-order thinking skills because they evaluate themselves. There's no doubt about it that those students who are using the algebra rubric are achieving at a higher level," notes Flaharty.

In geometry class, a kinesthetic learner would be given the option to construct different triangle models in wood, or an artistic student could create an art project to demonstrate her knowledge of geometric concepts.

Still, there are challenges. "We learn all of these strategies in an inservice, and try them the next day," says Flaharty. But then it can be easy to "fall back into the old ways of the lecture rut. It just takes a long time to change."

Learning Teams
To keep teachers from backsliding and to entice other districts into the program, the education agency's LLTC Online at http://edservices.aea7.k12.ia.us/lltc/index.html offers detailed resources and guidelines to help them align their teaching strategies to curriculum and assessment goals. Although avid users of research-based strategies, Flaharty and Bailey have joined learning teams, which are cross-curricular groups of teachers from multiple grade levels who meet periodically to monitor how specific instructional strategies are helping them reach achievement goals.

For example, Flaharty wanted to improve his students' ability to solve math story problems, so he is giving them strategies for analyzing common words that appear. Using a math word bank, Flaharty helps his students break these words into prefixes, suffixes, and root words to better understand their meaning. So if a student sees "colinear" on a test, she'll already understand that the prefix "co-" means "together with" and will have applied the prefix in nonmath sentences using words such as "cooperate" or "coed." Flaharty tracks student assessments in the targeted area in the first year and makes adjustments in the following year. In monthly learning team meetings, teachers compare notes and exchange ideas about their successes and challenges.

Not surprisingly, the strategy of generating and testing hypotheses is an essential learning team strategy as teachers try out different instructional practices, explains school improvement consultant Denise Schares.

Schares is working with a team of elementary school teachers interested in helping students with reading problems. Having hypothesized that these students don't have a bank of strategies—rereading, questioning, and so on—to get them through the sticking points, these teachers selected a handful of reading strategies to teach their struggling readers.

"I asked them to start small so they can get a sense of the process," says Schares. "The team will now observe students and chart data for the rest of the year to determine whether their hypothesis was correct" and what revisions they'll make to improve their use of instructional strategies.

"Implementation is key to this business," says Redalen. "We can't just keep adding stuff but need to get deeper penetration, and learning teams are evidence that teachers want to sustain more and better use of these strategies."

Teachers Make the Difference
Marzano believes that even though research-based instructional strategies are not yet widely used, the scientific evidence about their effectiveness will mount so that more teachers will see their value.

In the current age of measuring achievement, some district administrators are taking notice of practices proven to show percentile gains of 26–37 points in research studies. For example, students tend to flourish when a classroom atmosphere reinforces effort or a teacher encourages them to analyze their thinking and self-motivation.

Perhaps researchers' long-standing claims that even one teacher armed with effective strategies—even in a mediocre school environment—can make a profound difference in a student's learning will end up becoming the one piece of research that ushers in a new era of teaching.

21 February, 2009


From the book ‘The Teacher and Learning’ by Ernest O. Melby

A teacher says: "I can accept my good students, those who behave and do good work, but I can't accept those who do not work, who have the wrong attitude and who cause me trouble." They forget that it's the acceptance of all that gives power to the teacher. In fact, it is in relation to students who are difficult that the teacher's true qualities are demonstrated. We all find it easy to accept those who lend themselves to our designs. It is in their relationship to those who cause them trouble, who are dirty and poorly dressed, and who fail to achieve that teachers prove their beliefs.

It is the essence of the point of view here presented that only a complete gift of oneself makes the teacher an artist. Teaching is a jealous profession; it is not a sideline. This is not only because of the problem of time, nor because of the impact of lesser efforts on pupils: it is because of the effect on the teacher himself. It is only as we give fully of ourselves that we can become our best selves. Thus halfway measures and attitudes of whatever kind reduce our effectiveness.

When we ask the teacher to give himself fully to his students, to his colleagues, to his community, and to humanity, we are thus only asking him to be maximally effective. Moreover, it is only as he gives himself that he can experience completely the joys and satisfactions of being a teacher. In this situation he is in the same position as any artist. Frustrated artists are often those who for one reason or another are unable or unwilling to make a complete gift of themselves to their art. Similarly, the unhappiest teachers are those who bemoan the weaknesses of their pupils and the conditions under which they work and who fail to sense that it is their own half-hearted efforts that defraud them.

One measure of the teacher's willingness to give of himself is his accessibility to his students, his willingness to spend time with them. One difficulty here is the narrow conception that often prevails about what it means to teach. To teach means more than to lecture or explain before a group of students. The best teachers influence their students more in their personal, individual contacts with them than in strict classroom situations. If teaching and learning are complementary processes, if the teacher is to teach by learning and if his teaching is to be directed toward an individual, he must know that individual. And how is he to know that individual if he spends little or no time with him alone?

Another illusion defeats us. It is that there is some magic in lecturing and in the hearing of recitations. We want as much time for this as possible. We begrudge taking time to work with individual pupils. Yet we know very little about the actual effectiveness of what we do. Is it not at least possible that our classroom work would be greatly increased in effectiveness if only we spent more time with our pupils as individuals? We seem to be obsessed with teaching. We know that no one can educate another person, that all of us must educate ourselves. The teacher's role is that of a helper in this process. The question is: How can we best help?

Class participation

Class participation is an important aspect of student learning. When students speak up in class, they learn to express their ideas in a way that others can understand. When they ask questions, they learn how to obtain information to enhance their own understanding of a topic.

Class participation also is a valuable learning tool for teachers. Through students' questions, you learn what they don't understand, and can adjust your instruction accordingly.

Just as speaking in front of a group doesn't come easily to many adults; however, speaking up in class is a struggle for many students. That struggle might manifest itself in the classroom in a variety of ways -- not volunteering to answer questions, not asking for help, not speaking up in small-group activities, even not talking in class at all.

As a teacher, you will have greater success spurring a student to speak up if you can figure out why he is reluctant to participate. Whatever the reason for his reticence, your role is not to force him to speak; doing so will more likely make him clam up than open up. Your role is to provide a supportive, encouraging climate that helps him feel more comfortable, more confident, and less fearful of speaking up.

Create a climate in which students are encouraged to ask questions. Make it clear to students that you want them to ask questions. Point out that their questions help you by indicating where you might not have been clear. Emphasize that there is no such thing as a dumb question, and make sure to not allow students to ridicule a classmate's questions.

Take the student's questions and comments seriously. The student's reluctance to ask a question or volunteer an answer might be due to a lack of confidence. Help him gain the courage to participate by showing respect for his contributions and giving thoughtful answers to his questions. Listen attentively while he is talking; do not interrupt him. Try to find something positive to say about his comments, such as "That's an interesting point. I never thought about it that way" or "That's a really creative idea."

Orchestrate his speaking experiences to ensure success. Consider the following strategies:

• Ask questions you are confident he can answer.
• Let him know before class that you will be calling on him for a specific question so he can prepare an answer. If you arrange to call on him, do it early to lessen anxiety.
• When he does respond, reinforce his comments with positive statements and an encouraging smile.
• If you ask a question and he blanks out or says nothing, restate the question (perhaps in a yes or no format), or lead him toward the right answer by providing a clue. Or you might let him off the hook by giving the answer, while saying something likes "That was a tough one," and then moving on.
Be patient when waiting for a response. The student might need more time than normal to organize his ideas and formulate a response. As a result, he might be slow about answering a question. If so, give him extra time by waiting for an answer a little longer than you usually do. If other students are clamouring to answer, ask for their patience as well.

Monitor class participation. Monitoring will help you determine who is and who is not participating, and learn whether a particular student is improving. A simple way to keep track of student participation is to keep a seating chart on your desk and place check marks next to the names of those students who do contribute.

Provide opportunities for the student to practice his communication skills by taking the time to talk with him privately. The idea is to help the student feel more comfortable talking with one person so, in time, he will feel more confident speaking up in front of a group. Find a few minutes every so often to talk with him about his favourite activities and interests or speak with him when he is doing an art project or a writing assignment. Ask questions, so he can explain what he is doing, but be sure the questions are non-threatening.

Give the student responsibilities that require communication. You might have to nudge the student to assume those responsibilities, but don't hesitate to push a little if you are confident he can do them successfully. For example, you might encourage him to be a class messenger, a teacher assistant, a peer tutor, or the leader of a small group working on a topic he is familiar with. Make sure to praise his performance even if he struggles with the task.

Observe the student for evidence of a speech or language problem. A student might be reluctant to speak up in class because he has a speech defect or difficulty putting his thoughts into words. Articulation problems usually are readily evident to teachers, however, difficulties in language usage can be more difficult to identify. If your observations suggest a communication problem, bring that to the attention of your school's speech-language specialist, who might want to do an evaluation.

Golden Tips for Creativity.

Here are our Golden Tips for Developing Creativity in you and in your students. These tips are a collection of well experimented practices successfully accomplished by many well-known educators at different parts of the world. Have a look at these points.

1. Model Creativity
The most powerful way to develop creativity in your students is to be a role model. Children develop creativity not when you tell them to, but when you show them.
The teachers most of you probably remember from your school days are not those who crammed the most content into their lectures. The teachers you remember are those whose thoughts and actions served as your role model. Most likely they balanced teaching content with teaching you how to think with and about that content.
Occasionally, we'll teach a workshop on developing creativity and someone will ask exactly how to develop creativity. Bad start. You cannot be a role model for creativity unless you think and teach creatively yourself. So think carefully about your values, goals, and ideas about creativity and show them in your actions.

2. Build Self-Efficacy

The main limitation on what students can do is what they think they can do. All students have the capacity to be creators and to experience the joy associated with making something new, but first we must give them a strong base for creativity. Sometimes teachers and parents unintentionally limit what students can do by sending messages that express or imply limits on students' potential accomplishments.. Instead, help students believe in their own ability to be creative.

3. Question Assumptions

We all have assumptions. Often we do not know we have these assumptions because they are widely shared. Creative people question those assumptions and eventually lead others to do the same. When Copernicus suggested that the Earth revolves around the sun, the suggestion was viewed as preposterous because everyone could see that the sun revolves around the Earth. Galileo's ideas, including the relative rates of' falling objects, caused him to be banned as a heretic.
Sometimes it is not until many years later that the crowd realizes the limitations or errors of their assumptions and the value of the creative person's thoughts. The impetus of those who question assumptions allows for cultural, technological, and other forms of advancement.

Teachers can be role models for questioning assumptions. You can show students that what they assume they know, they do not really know.

Of course, students shouldn't question every assumption. There are times to question and then to try to reshape the environment and there are times to adapt to it. Some creative people question so many things so often that others stop taking them seriously. Everyone has to learn which assumptions are worth questioning and which battles are worth fighting. Sometimes it's better to leave the inconsequential assumptions alone so that you have an audience when you find something worth the effort.

Make questioning a part of the daily classroom exchange. It is more important for students to learn what questions to ask-and how to ask them-than to learn the answers. Help your students evaluate their questions by discouraging the idea that you ask questions and they simply answer them. Avoid perpetuating the belief that your role is to teach students the facts. Instead, help the students understand that what matters is their ability to use facts. Help your students learn how to formulate good questions and how to answer questions.

We all tend to make a pedagogical mistake by emphasizing the answering and not the asking of questions. The good student is perceived as the one who rapidly furnishes the right answers. The expert in a field thus becomes the extension of the expert student-the one who knows and can recite a lot of information. As John Dewey (1933) recognized, how we think is often more important than what we think. We need to teach students how to ask the right questions (good, thought-provoking, and interesting ones) and lessen the emphasis on rote learning.

4. How to Define and Redefine Problems

Promote creative performance by encouraging your students to define and redefine problems and projects. Encourage creative thinking by having students choose their own topics for papers or presentations, choose their own ways of solving problems, and sometimes choose again if they discover that their selection was a mistake. Allow your students to pick their own topics, subject to your approval, on at least one paper each term. Approval ensures that the topic is relevant to the lesson and has a chance of leading to a successful project.

A successful project (1) is appropriate to the course's goals, (2) illustrates a student's mastery of at least some of what has been taught, and (3) can earn a good grade. If a topic is so far from the goals that you will feel compelled to lower the grade, ask the student to choose another topic.

You cannot always offer students choices, but giving choices is the only way for them to learn how to choose. A real choice is not deciding between drawing a cat or a dog, nor is it picking one state in the USA to present at a project fair. Give your students latitude in making choices to help them to develop taste and good judgment, both of which are essential elements of creativity.

Sometimes we all make mistakes in choosing a project or in the way we select to accomplish it. Just remember that an important part of creativity is the analytic part, learning to recognize a mistake. Give your students that chance and the opportunity to redefine their choices.

5. Encourage Idea Generation
Once the problem is defined or redefined, it is time for students to generate ideas and solutions. The environment for generating ideas must be relatively free of criticism. The students may acknowledge that some ideas are better or worse, but you must not be harsh or critical. Aim to identify and encourage any creative aspects of the ideas presented and suggest new approaches to any ideas that are simply uncreative. Praise your students for generating many ideas, regardless of whether some are silly or unrelated, while encouraging them to identify and develop their best ideas into high-quality projects.

Your students can use project planning in and out of school and in the future. Questions about marriage, family, and careers are best answered after thoroughly considering many ideas. Teaching students the value of generating numerous ideas enhances their creative-thinking ability and benefits them now and in the future.

6. Cross-Fertilize Ideas
Stimulate creativity by helping students to think across subjects and disciplines. The traditional school environment often has separate classrooms and classmates for different subjects and seems to influence students into thinking that learning occurs in discrete boxes-the math box, the social studies box, and the science box. But creative ideas and insights often result from integrating material across subject areas, not from memorizing and reciting material.

Teaching students to cross-fertilize draws on their skills, interests, and abilities, regardless of the subject. For example, if your students are having trouble understanding math, you might ask them to draft test questions related to their special interests-ask the baseball fan to devise geometry problems based on the game. The context may spur creative ideas because the student finds the topic (baseball) enjoyable and it may counteract some of the anxiety caused by geometry. Cross-fertilization motivates students who aren't interested in subjects taught in the abstract.

One way to enact cross-fertilization in the classroom is to ask students to identify their best and worst academic areas. Then ask them to come up with project ideas in their weak area based on ideas borrowed from one of the strongest areas. Explain to them, for example, that they can apply their interest in science to social studies by analyzing the scientific aspects of trends in national politics.

7. Allow Time for Creative Thinking
Ours is a society in a hurry. We eat fast food, we rush from one place to another, and we value quickness.. Indeed, one way to say someone is smart is to say that the person is quick (Sternberg, 1985), a clear indication of our emphasis on time. Just take a look at the format of our standardized tests. Lots of multiple-choice problems are squeezed into a brief time slot.

Most creative insights, however, do not happen in a rush (Gruber, 1986). We need time to understand a problem and to toss it around. If we are asked to think creatively, we need time to do it well. If you stuff questions into your tests or give your students more homework than they can complete, then you are not allowing them time to think creatively.

8. Instruct and Assess Creatively
If you give only multiple-choice tests, students quickly learn the type of thinking that you value, no matter what you say. If you want to encourage creativity, you need to include at least some opportunities for creative thought in assignments and tests. Ask questions that require factual recall, analytic thinking, and creative thinking. For example, students might be asked to learn about a law, analyze the law, and then think about how the law might be improved.

9. Reward Creative Ideas and Products
It is not enough to talk about the value of creativity. Students are used to authority figures who say one thing and do another. They are exquisitely sensitive to what teachers value when it comes to the bottom line, namely, the grade or evaluation. If you do not put your money where your mouth is, they will go with the money--that is, the grade.

Reward creative efforts. For example, assign a project and remind students that you are looking for them to demonstrate their knowledge, analytical and writing skills, and creativity. Let them know that creativity does not depend on your agreement with what they write, only that they express ideas that represent a synthesis between existing ideas and their own thoughts. You need to care only that the ideas are creative from the students' perspectives, not necessarily creative with regard to the state of the art. Students may generate an idea that someone else has already had.

Some teachers complain that they cannot grade creative responses with as much objectivity as they can apply to multiple-choice or short-answer responses. They are correct in that there is some sacrifice of objectivity. However, research shows that evaluators are remarkably consistent in their assessments of' creativity (Amabile, 1983; Sternberg & Lubart, 1995). If the goal of assessment is to instruct students, then it is better to ask for creative work and evaluate it with somewhat less objectivity than to evaluate students exclusively on uncreative work. Let your students know that there is no completely objective way to evaluate creativity.

10. Encourage Sensible Risks
Creative people take risks and defy the crowd by buying low and selling high. Defying the crowd means risking the crowd's wrath. But there are sensible-and less sensible-reasons to defy the crowd. Creative people take sensible risks and produce ideas that others ultimately admire and respect as trend setting. In taking these risks, creative people sometimes make mistakes, fail, and fall flat on their faces.
We emphasize sensible risk-taking because we are not talking about risking life and limb. To help students learn to take sensible risks, encourage them to take some intellectual risks with courses, activities, and teachers-to develop a sense of how to assess risks.

Nearly every major discovery or invention entailed some risk. When a movie theater was the only place to see a movie, someone created the idea of the home video industry: Skeptics wondered if anyone would want to see videos on a small screen. Another initially risky idea was the home computer: Would anyone have enough use for a home computer to justify the cost? These ideas were once risks that are now ingrained in our society.

Given the learning opportunities that derive from taking risks and the achievement that learning makes possible, why are so few children willing to take risks in school? The reason is that perfect test scores and papers receive praise; failure may mean extra work. Failure to attain a certain academic standard is perceived as a lack of ability and motivation rather than as reflecting a desire to grow. Teachers advocate playing it safe when they give assignments without choices and allow only particular answers to questions.

11. Tolerate Ambiguity
People like things to be in black and white. We like to think that a country is good or bad (ally or enemy) or that a given idea in education works or doesn't work. The problem is that there are a lot of grays in creative work. Artists working on new paintings and writers working on new books often report feeling scattered and unsure in their thoughts. They need to figure out whether they are even on the right track.
A creative idea tends to come in bits and pieces and develops over time. But the period in which the idea is developing tends to be uncomfortable. Without time or the ability to tolerate ambiguity, you may jump to a less than optimal solution.
Tolerating ambiguity is uncomfortable. When a student has almost the right topic for a paper or almost the right science project, it's tempting to accept the near miss. To help students become creative, encourage them to accept and extend the period in which their ideas do not quite converge. Ultimately, they may come up with better ideas.

12. Allow Mistakes
Buying low and selling high carries a risk. Many ideas are unpopular simply because they are not good. People often think a certain way because that way works better than other ways. But once in a while a great thinker comes along -- a Freud, a Piaget, a Chomsky, or an Einstein -- and shows us a new way to think. These thinkers made contributions because they allowed themselves and their collaborators to take risks and make mistakes.

Many of Freud's and Piaget's ideas are wrong. Freud confused Victorian issues regarding sexuality with universal conflicts and Piaget misjudged the ages at which children could perform certain cognitive feats. Their ideas were great not because they lasted forever, but because they became the basis for other ideas. Freud's and Piaget's mistakes allowed others to profit from the ideas and go beyond the earlier ideas.

Schools are often unforgiving of mistakes. Errors on schoolwork are often marked with a large and pronounced X. When children respond to questions with incorrect answers, some teachers pounce on the students for not having read or understood the material and other students snicker. When children go outside the lines in the coloring book, or use a different color, they are corrected. In hundreds of ways and in thousands of instances over the course of a school career, children learn that it is not all right to make mistakes. The result is that they become afraid to risk the independent and the sometimes-flawed thinking that leads to creativity.

When your students make mistakes, ask them to analyze and discuss these mistakes. Often, mistakes or weak ideas contain the germ of correct answers or good ideas. In Japan, teachers spend entire class periods asking children to analyze the mistakes in their mathematical thinking. For the teacher who wants to make a difference, exploring mistakes can be a learning and growing opportunity.

13. Identify and Surmount Obstacles
Creative thinkers almost inevitably encounter resistance. The question is whether the creative thinker has the fortitude to persevere. We understand why so many young and promising creative thinkers disappear. Sooner or later, they decide that being creative is not worth the resistance and punishment. The truly creative thinkers pay the short-term price because they recognize that they can make a difference.
Describe obstacles that you, friends, and famous people have faced while trying to be creative; otherwise your students may think that obstacles confront only them. Include stories about people who weren't supportive, bad grades for unwelcome ideas, and cool receptions to your ideas. To help your students deal with obstacles, remind them of the many creative people whose ideas were initially shunned and help them develop an inner sense of awe of the creative act. You can suggest that they reduce their concern over what others think, but it is tough for students to lessen their dependence on their peers.

When a student attempts to surmount an obstacle, praise the effort, whether or not the student is entirely successful. Point out aspects of the student's attack that were successful and why, and then suggest other ways to confront similar obstacles. You can also tactfully critique counterproductive approaches by describing a better approach, as long as you praise the attempt. Ask the class to brainstorm about ways to confront a given obstacle to get them thinking about the many strategies we can use to confront problems. Consider the student who has always been too nervous to act in school plays or to sing a solo. Spend a half-hour asking students to generate strategies for dealing with performance anxiety and to chronicle personal examples that show how nervousness can be disabling. List ideas on the board and ask the class to critique them. Encourage students to try a couple of the strategies and praise them for any attempts at overcoming performance anxiety. The emphasis on tackling obstacles should help students focus on solving problems instead of being limited by them.

14. Teach Self-Responsibility

Part of teaching students to be creative is teaching them to take responsibility for both success and failure. Teaching students how to take responsibility means teaching students to (1) understand their creative process, (2) criticize themselves, and (3) take pride in their best creative work. Unfortunately, many teachers and parents look for-or allow students to look for-an outside enemy responsible for failures.

It sounds trite to say that you should teach students to take responsibility for themselves, but sometimes there is a gap between what we know and how we translate thought into action. In practice, people differ widely in the extent to which they take responsibility for the causes and consequences of their actions. Creative people need to take responsibility for themselves and for their ideas.

15. Promote Self-Regulation
You cannot help each student during each creative process. Your students must take control of the process.. After forming initial creative products and awakening the joy of creating in your students, teach them strategies for self-regulation, Self-directed creating is how most of us work throughout our lives-and especially in our lives outside of school. Here are some things students can do to promote their self-regulation: 1. List multiple ideas for an assignment, 2. Assess ideas for creativity and pursue one, 3. Defend your choice, 4. Develop plans for completing the assignment, including how and where to find information, and how and when you will finish the project, 5. Keep a daily log of progress, roadblocks, and how you surmounted problems, 6. Participate in daily class discussions regarding progress on the report and physical distractions (e.g., being hungry or tired), 7. Discuss teacher feedback on finished projects, and 8. Assess a classmate's project and review and discuss peer evaluations.

16. Delay Gratification

Part of being creative means being able to work on a project or task for a long time without immediate or interim rewards. Students must learn rewards are not always immediate and that there are benefits to delaying gratification.
Many people believe that they should reward children immediately for good performance, and that children should expect rewards. This style of teaching and parenting emphasizes the here and now and often comes at the expense of what is best in the long term.

An important lesson in life-and one that is intimately related to developing the discipline to do creative work-is to learn to wait for rewards. The greatest rewards are often those that are delayed. Give your students examples of delayed gratification in your life and in the lives of creative individuals and help them apply these examples to their lives.

Hard work often does not bring immediate rewards. Children do not immediately become expert baseball players, dancers, musicians, or sculptors. And the reward of becoming an expert seems far away. Children often succumb to the temptations of the moment-watching television or playing video games. The people who make the most of their abilities are those who wait for a reward and recognize that few serious challenges are met in a moment. Ninth-grade students may not see the benefits of hard work, but the advantages of a solid academic performance will he obvious when those students apply to college.

The short-term focus of most school assignments does little to teach children the value of delaying gratification. Projects are clearly superior in meeting this goal, but it is difficult to assign home projects if you are not confident of parental involvement and support. By working on a task for many weeks or months, a student learns the value of making incremental efforts for long-term gains.

17. Encourage Creative Collaboration

Creative performance often is viewed as a solitary occupation-we picture the writer sitting alone with her writing pad, the artist painting feverishly at 4 a.m., or the musician playing for his cats into the wee hours. In reality, people often work in groups. Collaboration can spur creativity. Encourage your students to collaborate with creative people because we all learn by example. Students benefit from seeing the techniques, strategies, and approaches that others use in the creative process. Also, students absorb the enthusiasm and joy many creative people exude as they go about the business of making something new.

Finding practical ways to encourage creative performance in groups of students is essential because you cannot work with students one-on-one all of the time. Because life often involves working with others, it is worthwhile to give students the chance to work collaboratively and to make the process of collaboration more creative..

18. Imagine Other Viewpoints

An essential aspect of working with other people and getting the most out of collaborative creative activity is to imagine ourselves in other people's shoes. We broaden our perspective by learning to see the world from a different point of view, and that experience enhances our creative thinking and contributions. Encourage your students to see the importance of understanding, respecting, and responding to other people's points of view. Many bright and potentially creative children never achieve success because they do not develop practical intelligence (Sternberg 1985, 1997; Sternberg et al., in press). They may do well in school and on tests, but they never learn how to get along with others or to see things and themselves as others see them.

19. Recognize Person-Environmental Fit
What is judged as creative is an interaction between a person and the environment (Csikszentmihalyi, 1988; Gardner, 1993; Sternberg, in press; Sternberg & Lubart, 1995). The very same product that is rewarded as creative in one time or place may be scorned in another.

In The Dead Poets' Society, a teacher whom the audience might well judge to be creative is viewed as incompetent by the school's administration. Similar experiences occur many times a day in many settings. There is no absolute standard for what constitutes creative work. The same product or idea may be valued or devalued in different environments. The lesson is that we need to find a setting in which our creative talents and unique contributions are rewarded or we need to modify our environment.

By building a constant appreciation of the importance of person-environment fit, you prepare your students for choosing environments that are conducive to their creative success. Encourage your students to examine environments to help them learn to select and match environments with their skills.

20. Find Excitement

To unleash your students' best creative performances, you must help them find what excites them. Remember that it may not be what really excites you. People who truly excel in a pursuit, whether vocational or avocational, almost always genuinely love what they do. Certainly the most creative people are intrinsically motivated in their work (Amabile, 1996). Less creative people often pick a career for the money or prestige and are bored or loathe their career. These people do not do work that makes a difference in their field.

Helping students find what they really love to do is often hard and frustrating work. Yet, sharing the frustration with them now is better than leaving them later to face it alone. To help students uncover their true interests, ask them to demonstrate a special talent or ability for the class. Explain that it does not matter what they do (within reason), only that they love the activity.

21. Seek Stimulating Environments
Help your students develop the ability to choose environments that stimulate their creativity. Although you try to present a stimulating classroom environment every day, your students spend many hours outside of school, eventually graduate, and either stagnate or grow in their creative development. Adults who continue to grow creatively visit and immerse themselves in environments that foster creativity.
To encourage students to develop skills in selecting environments that enhance creativity, choose some environments for the class to explore and help your students connect the environments with the experiences, creative growth, and accomplishment. Show students that creativity is easier with environmental stimulation.

Plan a field trip to a nearby museum, historical building, town hall, or other location with interesting displays and ask your students to generate and examine creative ideas for reports. Read excerpts from a book about a creative pioneer in the discipline being studied or the fieldtrip destination you have targeted-a great paleontologist if the focus is on dinosaurs, or a great astronaut if the focus is on space travel. Get students involved in role-playing.

You cannot reach into every nook of students' lives, nor can you directly control their creative development in the years to come. But give them a lifelong gift by teaching them how to choose creative environments that help ideas flow. Knowing how to choose a creative environment is one of the best long-term strategies for developing creativity.

22. Play to Strengths
Show students how to play to their strengths. Describe your strengths to your students and ask them to declare their strengths. As a group, brainstorm about how best to capitalize on these strengths. Let your students know that they facilitate creative performance by merging talent and preparation with opportunity. By helping students identify the exact nature of their talents, you create opportunities for them to express and use their talents.

Any teacher can help students play to their strengths. All you need is flexibility in assignments and a willingness to help reluctant students determine the nature of their interests and strengths.

23. Grow Creatively
Once we have a major creative idea, it is easy to spend the rest of our career following up on it. It is frightening to contemplate that the next idea may not be as good as the last one, or that success may disappear with the next idea. The result is that we can become complacent and stop being creative.

Sometimes, as experts, we become complacent and stop growing. Teachers and administrators are susceptible to becoming victims of our own expertise-to becoming entrenched in ways of thinking that worked in the past, but not necessarily in the future (Frensch & Sternberg, 1989). Being creative means stepping outside the boxes that we-and others-have created for ourselves.

24. Proselytize for Creativity
Once you have mastered a few of these techniques to develop creativity and made them part of your daily teaching routine, spread the word. The virtues of teaching your students in order to develop their creativity and your own multiply from reinforcement. Make the difference by telling your colleagues, associates, administrators, principal, school board members, and everyone else how important it is to develop creativity in students.

Use examples of creative student work, particularly from students who are not gifted in traditional academic abilities, to demonstrate the difference it makes to teach for creativity. Describe how every student can be reached with patience and a few techniques for developing creativity. Tell your colleagues that student projects are more interesting once students have experienced explicit creativity training. Richer, funnier, wilder, and generally far more interesting assignments, book reports, and projects make our lives less boring. It is, in fact, a good example of enlightened self-interest for teachers to give students creativity training, because creative students are more motivated and more involved with their schoolwork, and their work becomes more interesting.

If you spread the word about the importance of teaching for creativity in schools, homes, and communities, this approach to teaching will become more common and benefit teachers and students everywhere. Small changes in the way questions are asked, assignments are worded, and tests are crafted can make big differences in the lives of students. We hope that we have provided ideas you can use immediately to start teaching for creativity.

17 February, 2009

Effective Teaching in Schools - Theory and Practice (Second Edition) - By Chris Kyriacou

Reviewed by C. Radhakrishnan
About the Author: Dr. Chris Kyriacou is reader in Educational Psychology and currently the Director of Graduate Studies at the University of York. He is particularly interested in researching aspects of effective teaching, the experience of being a teacher, pupil learning and pupil motivation. His other major books include Essential Teaching Skills, Helping Troubled Pupils, and Stress-busting for Teachers.

Summary: Kyriacou’s ‘Effective Teaching in Schools’ presents new paradigms in effective teaching. The book has been written in three parts.

Part one covers the nature, concepts and process of effective teaching and aspects of students’ learning process. Writer has succeeded in his attempt to prove that for effective teaching there is a need to take into account the context and the nature of the learning outcomes desired. Second important take away from this part is the framework developed here on the notion of ‘attentiveness’, ‘receptiveness’ and ‘appropriateness’ act as the focus for thinking about student learning.

Part two comprises of five major divisions (4 to 8) and can be considered the heart of the book. The first topic in this section considers the different types of learning tasks, activities and experiences which teachers can usefully setup to facilitate student learning. In the next topic a number of differences between students have been explored: ability, motivation, social class, gender, race and special educational needs. According to the author ‘Knowing the child in detail’ is the key to effective teaching. In topic six we will come across key classroom teaching qualities and tasks that in effect serve as a set of basic skills involved in effective teaching process. Chapter seven convinces the need for redefining teacher-student relationship. Here the author explains how the teacher’s authority is established, the basis for developing mutual respect and rapport and the role of the teacher in the ‘pastoral care’ of the child. The last chapter in part two encompasses various strategies in dealing with students’ misbehaviour. The key task facing effective teachers is to minimise its occurrence in the first place rather than thinking about reprimands, punishments and counselling.

Part three addresses the three most pressing professional concerns challenging teachers. The first is to develop the school curriculum so that it meets as fully as possible the educational aspirations held for it. The second is to develop systems of teacher appraisal which will foster more effective in-service professional development. The third is to develop ways in which the levels of stress experienced by teachers can be reduced.

Chris Kyriacou concludes that all this to happen it requires time for teachers to engage in the necessary planning and preparation. This means that schools need to create an organisational infrastructure to enable such time to be made available. From the part of the teacher commitment to being effective and professional pride in the quality of their work are also very essential.

Conclusion: ‘Effective Teaching in Schools’ would make a great introduction for anyone considering taking up a career in teaching, or interested in acquiring skills that would help them in their Teacher Training course. This book will be of great use for teacher trainers, educational leaders and also for people aspiring for educational leadership. Recognising the shift of teacher training towards more classroom practice, the book combines depth and authoritative coverage in its treatment of the teaching experience. Each chapter has its own Objectives and Summary to help guide independent learning. Highlighted checklists summarise the key issues. Chapters conclude with discussion questions to help students reflect on key teaching issues and detailed guidance on further reading to help them research key topics effectively. In short it’s an amazing book on effective teaching that takes us from an idealistic world of imagination to a real world of practicability. The hard work and research time spent by the author should be appreciated from the bottom of our hearts. It’s the duty of each and every teacher to read and execute the wonderful ideas presented by the author to make teaching-learning process in our Indian classrooms really enjoyable and fun oriented for our children.

Wish you a happy reading!

Book Courtesy: The High Range School Library, TTL, Mattupatti

15 February, 2009


Excerpts from Lion F. Gardiner's Article "Why We Must Change: The Research Evidence" Thought & Action, Spring, 1998.

Lion Gardiner's article is fairly long and not appropriate for posting (with permission) here. It contains, however, a number of salient points about how students learn and the rather ineffective job American education is doing in addressing their needs as learners. Many points mentioned here are very much applicable in the Indian context too. He writes:

... we find a substantial body of evidence that clearly demonstrates a crisis of educational quality in our nation's colleges and universities.

This crisis should evoke a serious and determined response from the entire professorate. But rather, ... we too often find complacency within our ranks. We seem to turn a blind eye to the quality of our educational processes and results. The busyness of daily routine and the seeming rightness of the familiar obscures the need to change.

What makes Gardiner's article very credible and powerful are the myriad studies and associated data he presents. Some excerpts:
• "We know that a strong relationship exists between students' formal operational ability and their success in their courses.

Critical thinking is a form of higher-order cognition that society requires and faculty esteem. ...

We urge our students to think critically and give them activities we believe will help them to learn how. Yet, 30 years of research show us that most of our students hold epistemological assumptions that prevent them from understanding and, therefore, engaging in critical thinking."

• "... the relationship between [students'] active involvement and effective learning is so strong that 'the effectiveness of any educational policy or practice is directly related to the capacity of that policy to increase involvement in learning.'

Active involvement includes frequent student-faculty interaction, both in and outside of class."

• "For tens of thousands of students in a large national study, specific curricular design had little effect on most of 22 general education outcomes examined. The types or breadth of courses, specific courses available, or relative flexibility to choose among courses had little impact on these outcomes. On the other hand, a core curriculum had salutary effects on many developmental outcomes. ...

These curricula, where students took, in common, interdisciplinary general education courses, represented less than 2 percent of the hundreds of curricula in the study."

• "One national study has revealed that only 35 percent of faculty strongly emphasize their institution's curricular goals. Only 12 percent utilize feedback from their earlier students, and 8 percent use the viewpoints of experts in instruction. The conclusion: 'The faculty interviewed seemed to teach as they had been taught ...'"

• "Faculty in another national study 'overwhelmingly' said developing effective thinking was their primary educational purpose, but most of the 4,000 course goals they submitted related to teaching concepts in their disciplines, rather than developing the intellectual skills they said were so important."

• "... involving students in discussion fosters retention of information, application of knowledge to new situations, and development of higher-order thinking skills -- and discussions do this much better than lectures do. ...
... Yet 70 to 90 percent of professors use the traditional lecture as their primary instructional strategy."

• "In a study of 155 class sessions at four different institutions, questioning of students comprised 0.2 percent to 9.2 percent of class time."

• "... in most courses, transmission of facts from teacher to students and discussion that requires only the recall of facts are the dominant class activities, regardless of discipline, the number of weeks into the semester, or size of institution.

In one study, 89.3 percent of questions asked by the faculty required only recall to answer, not comprehension of concepts. ...

In only 0.3 percent to 2.5 percent of class time were students required to use the much more complex skill of evaluation."

• "The median cognitive level in classes of 15 or fewer students was analysis. In classes of 16 to 45 students the median was comprehension. In large classes of 46 to 300 students the median intellectual activity was recall."

• "If students are not thinking during lectures, what are they doing? Their attention drifts after only 10 to 20 minutes. They are listening, asking or responding to questions, or taking notes only half of the time. Up to 15 percent of their time is spent fantasizing."

• "Only 14 percent of 745 research university students said they had ever been formally taught how to study, in high school or in college."

• "... how much course content do students retain? Studies sometimes find rare high values where students retain 50 percent of the content, but values of 20 percent or less are common."

• "Although engineering students used memorized formulas successfully to solve physics problems, there were 'widespread misconceptions' when they were required to provide 'coherent verbal descriptions of abstract concepts' inherent in the problems.

After watching their teachers work 1,000 problems in class and solving another 3,000 themselves outside class, 'after four years, engineering students showed negligible improvement in problem-solving skills."

• "The 1992 National Adult Literacy Survey of 26,000 native-born Americans discovered major deficiencies in two- and four-year college graduates' ability to work with text and numbers in straightforward, pre-college tasks such as understanding the meaning of newspaper articles, using bus timetables, and calculating prices of supermarket items."

• "Only 17 percent of 1,700 faculty respondents at a research university said they use essay tests. These same respondents claimed only 13 percent of their questions required problem-solving."

• "... numerous studies demonstrate widespread cheating among students on classroom tests, possibly involving 40 to 90 percent of all students. ...
One-third of students [in a national study of 6,165 respondents] with A's and B+'s cheated, as did two-thirds of 6,000 students at 'highly selective' colleges."

Take away point for us (Indians):
Most of the points mentioned above are very much present in our system. Educationists and scholars time and again advocated for change. Still, inherent defects continue as before. For well over two decades we have been warned that if we do not put our academic house in order, others ... will step in to do so. They have begun to do this. We must act quickly.

ACTIVE LEARNING - A model for better engaging students.

By L. Dee Fink
(Reprinted with permission of the University of Oklahoma Instructional Development Program, July 19, 1999)

Many college teachers today want to move past passive learning to active learning, to find better ways of engaging students in the learning process. But many teachers feel a need for help in imagining what to do, in or out of class that would constitute a meaningful set of active learning activities.

The model below offers a way of conceptualizing the learning process in a way that may assist teachers in identifying meaningful forms of active learning.

A Model of Active Learning

Explanation of the Components
This model suggests that all learning activities involve some kind of experience or some kind of dialogue. The two main kinds of dialogue are "Dialogue with Self" and "Dialogue with Others." The two main kinds of experience are "Observing" and "Doing."

Dialogue with Self:
This is what happens when a learner thinks reflectively about a topic, i.e., they ask themselves what they think or should think, what they feel about the topic, etc. This is "thinking about my own thinking," but it addresses a broader array of questions than just cognitive concerns. A teacher can ask students, on a small scale, to keep a journal for a course, or, on a larger scale, to develop a learning portfolio. In either case, students could write about what they are learning, how they are learning, what role this knowledge or learning plays in their own life, how this makes them feel, etc.

Dialogue with Others:
This can and does come in many forms. In traditional teaching, when students read a textbook or listen to a lecture, they are "listening to" another person (teacher, book author). This can perhaps be viewed as "partial dialogue" but it is limited because there is no back-and-forth exchange. A much more dynamic and active form of dialogue occurs when a teacher creates an intense small group discussion on a topic. Sometimes teachers can also find creative ways to involve students in dialogue situations with people other than students (e.g., practitioners, experts), either in class or outside of class. Whoever the dialogue is with, it might be done live, in writing, or by email.

This occurs whenever a learner watches or listens to someone else "Doing" something that is related to what they are learning about. This might be such things as observing one's teacher do something (e.g., "This is how I critique a novel."), listening to other professionals perform (e.g., musicians), or observing the phenomena being studied (natural, social, or cultural). The act of observing may be "direct" or "vicarious." A direct observation means the learner is observing the real action, directly; a vicarious observation is observing a simulation of the real action. For example, a direct observation of poverty might be for the learner to actually go to where low income people are living and working, and spend some time observing life there. A vicarious or indirect observation of the same topic might be to watch a movie involving poor people or to read stories written by or about them.


This refers to any learning activity where the learner actually does something: design a reservoir dam (engineering), conduct a high school band (music education), design and/or conduct an experiment (natural and social sciences), critique an argument or piece of writing (the humanities), investigate local historical resources(history), make an oral presentation (communication), etc.

Again, "Doing" may be direct or vicarious. Case studies, role-playing and simulation activities offer ways of vicariously engaging students in the "Doing" process. To take one example mentioned above, if one is trying to learn how to conduct a high school band, direct "Doing" would be to actually go to a high school and direct the students there. A vicarious "Doing" for the same purpose would be to simulate this by having the student conduct a band composed of fellow college students who were acting like (i.e., role playing) high school students. Or, in business courses, doing case studies is, in essence, a simulation of the decision making process that many courses are aimed at teaching.

Implementing This Model of Active Learning
So, what can a teacher do who wants to use this model to incorporate more active learning into his/her teaching? I would recommend the following three suggestions, each of which involves a more advanced use of active learning.

1. Expand the Kinds of Learning Experiences You Create.

The most traditional teaching consists of little more than having students read a text and listen to a lecture, a very limited and limiting form of Dialogue with Others. Consider using more dynamic forms of Dialogue with Others and the other three modes of learning. For example:

o Create small groups of students and have them make a decision or answer a focused question periodically,
o Find ways for students to engage in authentic dialogue with people other than fellow classmates who know something about the subject (on the web, by email, or live),
o Have students keep a journal or build a "learning portfolio" about their own thoughts, learning, feelings, etc.,
o Find ways of helping students observe (directly or vicariously) the subject or action they are trying to learn, and/or
o Find ways to allow students to actually do (directly, or vicariously with case studies, simulation or role play) that which they need to learn to do.

2. Take Advantage of the "Power of Interaction."

Each of the four modes of learning has its own value, and just using more of them should add variety and thereby be more interesting for the learner. However, when properly connected, the various learning activities can have an impact that is more than additive or cumulative; they can be interactive and thereby multiply the educational impact.

For example, if students write their own thoughts on a topic (Dialogue with Self) before they engage in small group discussion (Dialogue with Others), the group discussion should be richer and more engaging. If they can do both of these and then observe the phenomena or action (Observation), the observation should be richer and again more engaging. Then, if this is followed by having the students engage in the action itself (Doing), they will have a better sense of what they need to do and what they need to learn during doing. Finally if, after Doing, the learners process this experience by writing about it (Dialogue with Self) and/or discussing it with others (Dialogue with others), this will add further insight. Such a sequence of learning activities will give the teacher and learners the advantage of the Power of

Alternatively, advocates of Problem-Based Learning would suggest that a teacher start with "Doing" by posing a real problem for students to work on, and then having students consult with each other (Dialogue with Others) on how best to proceed in order to find a solution to the problem. The learners will likely use a variety of learning options, including Dialogue with Self and Observing.

3. Create a Dialectic Between Experience and Dialogue.
One refinement of the Interaction Principle described above is simply to create dialectic between the two principle components of this Model of Active Learning: Experience and Dialogue. New experiences (whether of Doing or Observing) have the potential to give learners a new perspective on what is true (beliefs) and/or what is good (values) in the world. Dialogue (whether with Self or with others) has the potential to help learners construct the many possible meanings of experience and the insights that come from them. A teacher who can creatively set up a dialectic of learning activities in which students move back and forth between having rich new experiences and engaging in deep, meaningful dialogue, can maximize the likelihood that the learners will experience significant and meaningful learning.


From Patient Teaching, Loose Leaf Library
Springhouse Corporation (1990)

Much of your teaching depends on cognitive abilities -- sharing information with your students and looking for signs that the information is understood. As a result, you should understand cognitive stages.

Child psychologist Jean Piaget described the mechanism by which the mind processes new information. He said that a person understands whatever information fits into his established view of the world. When information does not fit, the person must re-examine and adjust his thinking to accommodate the new information. Piaget described four stages of cognitive development and relates them to a person's ability to understand and assimilate new information.

1. Sensorimotor: (birth to about age 2)
During this stage, the child learns about himself and his environment through motor and reflex actions. Thought derives from sensation and movement. The child learns that he is separate from his environment and that aspects of his environment -- his parents or favourite toy -- continue to exist even though they may be outside the reach of his senses. Teaching for a child in this stage should be geared to the sensorimotor system. You can modify behaviour by using the senses: a frown, a stern or soothing voice -- all serve as appropriate techniques.

2. Preoperational: (begins about the time the child starts to talk to about age 7)
Applying his new knowledge of language, the child begins to use symbols to represent objects. Early in this stage he also personifies objects. He is now better able to think about things and events that aren't immediately present. Oriented to the present, the child has difficulty conceptualizing time. His thinking is influenced by fantasy -- the way he'd like things to be -- and he assumes that others see situations from his viewpoint. He takes in information and then changes it in his mind to fit his ideas. Teaching must take into account the child's vivid fantasies and undeveloped sense of time. Using neutral words, body outlines and equipment a child can touch gives him an active role in learning.

3. Concrete: (about first grade to early adolescence)
During this stage, accommodation increases. The child develops an ability to think abstractly and to make rational judgements about concrete or observable phenomena, which in the past he needed to manipulate physically to understand. In teaching this child, giving him the opportunity to ask questions and to explain things back to you allows him to mentally manipulate information.

4. Formal Operations: (adolescence)
This stage brings cognition to its final form. This person no longer requires concrete objects to make rational judgements. At his point, he is capable of hypothetical and deductive reasoning. Teaching for the adolescent may be wide ranging because he'll be able to consider many possibilities from several perspectives.


From Psychology - The Search for Understanding
by Janet A. Simons, Donald B. Irwin and Beverly A. Drinnien

Abraham Maslow developed a theory of personality that has influenced a number of different fields, including education. This wide influence is due in part to the high level of practicality of Maslow's theory. This theory accurately describes many realities of personal experiences. Many people find they can understand what Maslow says. They can recognize some features of their experience or behaviour which is true and identifiable but which they have never put into words.

Maslow is a humanistic psychologist. Humanists do not believe that human beings are pushed and pulled by mechanical forces, either of stimuli and reinforcements (behaviourism) or of unconscious instinctual impulses (psychoanalysis). Humanists focus upon potentials. They believe that humans strive for an upper level of capabilities. Humans seek the frontiers of creativity, the highest reaches of consciousness and wisdom. This has been labelled "fully functioning person", "healthy personality", or as Maslow calls this level, "self-actualizing person."

Maslow has set up a hierarchic theory of needs. All of his basic needs are instinctoid, equivalent of instincts in animals. Humans start with a very weak disposition that is then fashioned fully as the person grows. If the environment is right, people will grow straight and beautiful, actualizing the potentials they have inherited. If the environment is not "right" (and mostly it is not) they will not grow tall and straight and beautiful.

Maslow has set up a hierarchy of five levels of basic needs. Beyond these needs, higher levels of needs exist. These include needs for understanding, aesthetic appreciation and purely spiritual needs. In the levels of the five basic needs, the person does not feel the second need until the demands of the first have been satisfied or the third until the second has been satisfied, and so on. Maslow's basic needs are as follows:

Physiological Needs

These are biological needs. They consist of needs for oxygen, food, water, and a relatively constant body temperature. They are the strongest needs because if a person were deprived of all needs, the physiological ones would come first in the person's search for satisfaction.

Safety Needs
When all physiological needs are satisfied and are no longer controlling thoughts and behaviours, the needs for security can become active. Adults have little awareness of their security needs except in times of emergency or periods of disorganization in the social structure (such as widespread rioting). Children often display the signs of insecurity and the need to be safe.

Needs of Love, Affection and Belongingness

When the needs for safety and for physiological well-being are satisfied, the next class of needs for love, affection and belongingness can emerge. Maslow states that people seek to overcome feelings of loneliness and alienation. This involves both giving and receiving love, affection and the sense of belonging.

Needs for Esteem

When the first three classes of needs are satisfied, the needs for esteem can become dominant. These involve needs for both self-esteem and for the esteem a person gets from others. Humans have a need for a stable, firmly based, high level of self-respect, and respect from others. When these needs are satisfied, the person feels self-confident and valuable as a person in the world. When these needs are frustrated, the person feels inferior, weak, helpless and worthless.

Needs for Self-Actualization

When all of the foregoing needs are satisfied, then and only then are the needs for self-actualization activated. Maslow describes self-actualization as a person's need to be and do that which the person was "born to do." "A musician must make music, an artist must paint, and a poet must write." These needs make themselves felt in signs of restlessness. The person feels on edge, tense, lacking something, in short, restless. If a person is hungry, unsafe, not loved or accepted, or lacking self-esteem, it is very easy to know what the person is restless about. It is not always clear what a person wants when there is a need for self-actualization.

The hierarchic theory is often represented as a pyramid, with the larger, lower levels representing the lower needs, and the upper point representing the need for self-actualization. Maslow believes that the only reason that people would not move well in direction of self-actualization is because of hindrances placed in their way by society. He states that education is one of these hindrances. He recommends ways education can switch from its usual person-stunting tactics to person-growing approaches. Maslow states that educators should respond to the potential an individual has for growing into a self-actualizing person of his/her own kind. Ten points that educators should address are listed:
1. We should teach people to be authentic, to be aware of their inner selves and to hear their inner-feeling voices.
2. We should teach people to transcend their cultural conditioning and become world citizens.
3. We should help people discover their vocation in life, their calling, fate or destiny. This is especially focused on finding the right career and the right mate.
4. We should teach people that life is precious, that there is joy to be experienced in life, and if people are open to seeing the good and joyous in all kinds of situations, it makes life worth living.
5. We must accept the person as he or she is and helps the person learn their inner nature. From real knowledge of aptitudes and limitations we can know what to build upon, what potentials are really there?
6. We must see that the person's basic needs are satisfied. This includes safety, belongingness, and esteem needs.
7. We should refreshen consciousness, teaching the person to appreciate beauty and the other good things in nature and in living.
8. We should teach people that controls are good, and complete abandon is bad. It takes control to improve the quality of life in all areas.
9. We should teach people to transcend the trifling problems and grapple with the serious problems in life. These include the problems of injustice, of pain, suffering, and death.
10. We must teach people to be good choosers. They must be given practice in making good choices.

The why and how of organization for teaching.

Teaching may best be defined as the organization of learning. So the problem of successful teaching is to organize learning for authentic results. Teaching may be thought of as the establishment of a situation in which it is hoped and believed that effective learning will take place. This situation is complicated and made up of many parts.

1. There must be a learner, or more usually a group of learners.
2. There must be facilities; a stated place and time for meeting, and books and other printed materials for learning.
3. There must be an orderly and understood procedure (routine and regular, or highly varied) for presenting, discussing and evaluating.
4. There must be some way of grading so that the teacher and more importantly the pupil, will know how the learning is coming along.
5. There must be an organizer who brings these parts into a whole -- in other words, the teacher.

Teaching is the organization of learning. Thus it follows that a teacher is essentially an organizer. The task of any organizer is to enable a group and the individuals in it to function effectively together for the achievement of a common purpose. This is precisely your proper role as a teacher.

Characteristics of a Teacher as an Organizer
1. A good organizer is not an autocrat. He or she does not make all the decisions or try to tell everybody in detail what to do and how and when to do it.

2. A good organizer, however, does not simply behave like any other member of the group, without any special rights, privileges, or powers. The group needs positive leadership in order to function effectively, clarify its purpose and achieve its desired results.

3. A good organizer helps the group and the individuals in it to discover, to formulate, and to clarify their own purposes. He or she will not merely tell the learners that they must learn and do this and do that.

4. A good organizer delegates and distributes responsibility as widely as possible. He or she will try to educate the group to manage its own affairs just as far as it can. With an immature and inexperienced group a good organizer will function to a considerable extent as a director, because he must function this way for the class to get anywhere. As the class learns how to work together, and as individuals in it learn to steer their own course, the function of the organizer merges more and more into guidance.

5. A good organizer encourages and values initiative. But the initiative is not just drifting and getting off the path. It is initiative that is always within in the framework of the purpose of the class.
6. A good organizer builds on strengths rather that emphasizing weakness. He or she goes on the constant assumption that everyone is capable of some achievement, some contribution, even though that achievement may be very modest, and perhaps very different from what the organizer expected or intended.

7. A good organizer fosters self-criticism and self-evaluation within the group. As leader, as director, as guide, the organizer must often take it upon himself or herself to reveal to the group where they have succeeded and where they have failed. However, he must develop the ability to hold a mirror up to the group do they can see and judge their own accomplishments and failings.

8. A good organizer maintains control, because without control and as controller, and constantly strives to develop within the class its own self-control in terms of its common purpose.

These are some of the operating characteristics of any good organizer. They are the operating characteristics of a first-rate teacher. A teacher organizes learning. Thus, a teacher's work is different in many important specific and detailed respects from the work of a factory manager, the head of a business department, or the administrator of a school system. But the teacher, like any other organizer, works primarily with people, and his task and responsibility are to create situations in which people can do their best and achieve their best.

From: The Center for Teaching Excellence at the United States Military Academy