30 March, 2009

Essential Teaching Skills (2nd Edition) by Dr. 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, student learning and student motivation. His other major books include Effective Teaching in Schools – Theory and Practice, Helping Troubled Pupils, and Stress-busting for Teachers.

Target Readers: Newly qualified and experienced teachers, trainers, coaches, educational leaders and for every one who have an interest in defining, understanding and exploring the concept of teaching skills and its place within the learning system. This book 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 B.Ed. or M.Ed. courses. In fact, I suspect it may already be a set work, if not, it should be.

This book has been presented in eight chapters covering the following topics.

Chapter 1 - Developing your teaching skills:
This lesson provides the reader a clear perception on nature of teaching skills. How to monitor our own teaching skills and which are the areas a teacher must focus for developing essential teaching skills are brilliantly introduced by the author. Dr. Chris Kyriacou finishes the lesson with a very powerful note – “If your teaching is to retain the sharpness, freshness and cutting edge that characterises the most effective teaching, it is crucial that your skills are never allowed to rest for too long on the back burner.” In the coming lessons each of the major teaching skills are explained in a vivid manner.

Chapter 2 - Planning and preparation:
As we all know planning and preparation is the key to successful teaching. In the first section Dr. Chris elucidates the three major elements of lesson planning such as selecting and scripting a lesson, preparing the materials and resources to be used and deciding how to monitor and assess pupil’s progress. In the second part he focuses on preparation that involves the preparation of all the resources and materials to be used in the lesson. No doubt, planning and preparation go hand in hand, and many planning decisions are taken while preparation is going on. This lesson would be of great use for beginners in the teaching profession.

Chapter 3 - Lesson presentation:
This lesson is presented in three sections – the teacher’s manners, teacher talk activities and academic tasks. Author has succeeded in convincing the reader the importance of teacher’s manners and attitude while presenting a lesson. Many of the minute aspects mentioned here remind the teachers how careful they should be in the class about their manners and organisation of teacher talk activities. In the last part of the lesson various aspects related to academic tasks – activities set up by the teacher to facilitate student learning, are lucidly presented.

Chapter 4 - Lesson management:
This lesson is essentially concerned with those skills involved in managing and organising the learning activities by which teachers can maximise students’ productive involvement in the lesson. According to the author, given the large size and range of ability of most classes, lesson management is not at all a mean task. First section gives the reader a clear idea on how to begin a lesson, handle the transition within the lesson between activities and bring a lesson to a successful ending. In the later part we come across strategies for maintaining students’ involvement, handling the logistics of classroom life and managing student movement and noise in the class. This lesson is worth reading and practicing for beginners and experienced teachers.

Chapter 5 - Classroom climate:
Dr. Chris Kyriacou begins the lesson by saying, “the classroom climate established by the teacher can have a major impact on pupils’ motivation and attitudes towards learning.” Through out the lesson by giving various strategies and reference quotes he successfully presents to the reader how to build a positive classroom climate, motivate students, establish healthy relationship with students, enhance students’ self-esteem and create an excellent classroom appearance and class composition.

Chapter 6 - Discipline:
This lesson is based on the basic principle – ‘skillful teaching lies at the heart of establishing discipline’. Author’s effort to provide basic information on nature of students’ misbehaviour, how to establish teacher’s authority, how to deal with students’ misbehaviour and the principles to be kept in mind while opting for reprimands and punishments are really commendable. It’s a must read lesson for teachers who face problems in managing classroom discipline.

Chapter 7 - Assessing pupils’ progress:
One of the most important components of classroom teaching and learning is the regular assessment and feedback of students’ progress. The issues discussed here include the purpose and types of assessment and methods to improve, record and report assessment and feedback.

Chapter 8 - Reflection and Evaluation:
This lesson is imperative for all teachers who take this profession very seriously and sincerely. Reflecting and evaluating what teachers’ do every day not only in the classroom but in the school by themselves is essential to their growth as an effective teacher. Various principles and strategies involved in self evaluation and reorienting ourselves to greater heights is presented in a very beautiful manner by the author. Last part of this lesson is devoted for techniques to cope teacher stress.

It is all presented in a no-nonsense way, with the emphasis on developing and evaluating practical skills acquired during teaching practice. This is firmly backed up with constant reference to other textbooks and teaching theory.

For example, lesson management is considered from the point of view of the experienced teacher who knows from past experience how to control and encourage a class; from the point of a new trainee who might be afraid to put into practice what they know, and someone who is in the mid point between these two areas.

The skills are constantly under revision and the reader gains an understanding of how personal self evaluation, critical theory and actual practice can all contribute to effective teaching.

Indeed, some aspects of this book draw on experience and practice outside of the strict realm of classroom teaching and could be applied to other professions: how to communicate effectively or encourage rather than discourage someone, for example.

The skills covered form the basis of continuing professional assessment, which also of course includes formal appraisal and personal career development. There are plenty of reference sources for further reading at the end of each chapter, and also lists of key questions and points to consider.
There are practical suggestions as well as an analysis of teaching theory - what teaching aids may be useful in particular circumstances, how to create a viable learning environment, and how to tackle problems you may come across during your time in the classroom.

The illustrations tend towards the light-hearted, black and white drawings, neatly bringing out points from the text. If a little old-fashioned in appearance, they are apt and amusing.

There is an extensive bibliography in addition to the individual chapter resources, plus a useful subject and author cross- referenced index. An updated and revised third edition of this book which has already been published by Nelson Thornes, tells us the extensive reception of this book by educators all over the world. In short it’s a great work by a well experienced educator for all other educators who wish to master the art of teaching to make teaching-learning process fun and enjoyable.

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