An effective teacher can make a positive difference

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Introduction

An effective teacher has the ability to make a positive difference in a student's life. Teachers should be genuine in their caring and kindness and willing to share the responsibility involved in a classroom with the students. They should be motivated to provide meaningful experiences for all students; and enthusiastic in stimulating student's learning. In 2010 and beyond, a teacher has the ability to adapt the curriculum and apply it to different learning styles by seeing the potential in emerging tools and technologies. The use of these tools is to enhance and captivate students for knowledge. A teacher surrenders to student's knowledge and continues to stay current, by absorbing experiences and knowledge and by going beyond just learning.

An effective teacher must understand the methods and theories behind a 2010 and beyond classroom to ensure students are motivated, a classroom is managed and the processes and purposes of assessment. To understand what it takes to become an effective teacher in the year 2010 and beyond; this paper will discuss various theories of teaching and learning and how they impact on motivation, classroom management and assessment.

Motivation is the process whereby goal directed activity is instigated and sustained (Schunk, Pintrich & Meece, 2008; as cited in Eggen & Kauchak, 2010. p.284), for example, if a student works hard to solve a math problem; they are motivated i.e. solving the problem is the goal and they are sustaining their efforts to reach them. Motivation is classified into two broad strands: extrinsic and intrinsic motivation. When a student is extrinsically motivated they are engaging in an activity that provides a means to an end, for example, they study to get a good grade; but when a student is intrinsically motivated they become involved in an activity for its own sake, for example, they study to understand the content (Eggen et al., 2009).

 

Just as students differ in their learning styles and abilities; not all students are motivated by the same values, needs, desires or wants. There are many factors that can affect a given student's motivation to work and learn: interest in the subject matter, perception of its usefulness, general desire to achieve, self confidence, self-esteem, patience and persistence (Bligh, 1971; Sass, 1989; as cited in Davis, 1993). An effective teacher motivates the individuals in their classroom by:

setting high expectations and reasonable objectives to allow students to progress and achieve the outcomes;

differentiating instruction to meet needs of each student by adjusting tasks, for example, shortening assessments or allowing extra response time; to the appropriate level;

providing the relevance behind what the students are learning to give meaning and purpose for their hard work;

guiding students to discuss new material, allowing them to draw on their own experiences to learn and understand the new material; and

proposing questions that engage and encourage students to discuss learning topics (Davis, 1993).

 

Many factors will determine whether students will be motivated to learn. There are several theoretical views of motivation that attempt to explain aspects of student interest: the behavioural view; the cognitive view; and the humanistic view. Although no single view of motivation explains student interest, these interpretations provide insight on individual differences in a student's desire to learn (Biehler & Snowman, 1997; as cited in Burden, 2000, p.4).

Behavioural Views of Motivation

Each major theoretical approach in behaviourism posits a primary factor in motivation i.e. Ivan Pavlov's classical conditioning where responses associated to stimuli direct behaviour; and Burrhus Skinner's operant conditioning where behaviour is shaped by reinforcement (Huitt, 2001). According to Skinner, when a student supplies a correct answer and their teacher praises their efforts; this motivates the student to continue striving to achieve remote goals. 

 

By adapting this theory, behavioural learning theorists' have developed modification techniques on the assumption that students are motivated to complete tasks by being promised an incentive; revealing why some students react favourably to particular subjects while disliking others: for example, some students may enter a required math class with a feeling of delight, while others may feel that they have been sentenced to prison. Skinner suggests that such differences can be traced to past experiences and would argue that the students who love maths have been shaped to respond that way by a series of positive experiences; in contrast, the students who dislike maths may have suffered a series of negative experiences (Huitt, 2000).

 

Humanistic Views of Motivation

One of the most widely mentioned theories of motivation is Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs (1954) developed by psychologist Abraham Maslow. Maslow saw human needs in the form of a hierarchy, and concluded as each of the needs are substantially satisfied (as no need is ever fully gratified), the next need becomes dominant (Shah & Shah, n.d.). These needs (ascending from the lowest to highest) are:

physiological needs i.e. basic needs for survival;

security / safety needs i.e. the need to feel free from danger;

social needs i.e. the need of belonging;

esteem needs i.e. the need to be held in high regard both my themselves and by others; and

the need for self-actualisation i.e. the need to become what one is capable of becoming and includes growth, achieving one's potential and self-fulfilment.

 

In order to motivate students, teachers need to understand what level of the hierarchy the individual student is on and focus on satisfying those needs or needs above that level. While teachers are limited in their ability to meet all needs completely, they can establish a nurturing classroom environment that allows for their students' physical, mental and emotional needs to be met while challenging them to grow to their self-actualised potential (Abromitis, 2010).

 

Cognitive Views of Motivation

Human behaviour can be influenced by the way people think about themselves and their environment. Based on Jean Piaget's principles of equilibration, assimilation, accommodation and schema formation; cognitive motivation suggests that children possess a natural desire to maintain a sense of organisation and balance in their conception of the world. This sense of equilibration may be experienced if a child assimilates a new experience by relating it to an existing scheme, or the child may accommodate by modifying an existing scheme if the new experience is too different (Huitt, 2001).

 

Considering the costs and benefits of a task, whether it is undertaken for internal reasons, external reasons or a combination of the two; cognitive motivation explains why people choose, for example a job they like even though the pay might be less. They are intrinsically motivated to except the job for the enjoyment it provides even if that means sacrificing their needs to some degree (Liden, 2010). In the classroom students are motivated by the need to know, understand and appreciate what they are doing, therefore teachers need to ensure their lessons are engaging to enhance learning.

Using Motivational Views to Become an Effective Teacher

To become an effective teacher in 2010 and beyond, a variety of techniques can be used to motivate students to learn, which include:

helping students exert themselves and work toward remote goals using behavioural techniques;

making sure students know what they are doing, how to proceed and how to determine when they have achieved their goals;

satisfying students physiological, safety, social and esteem needs by: making the classroom psychologically and physically safe; showing interest in your students and acknowledging they belong in your classroom; and arrange learning experiences so all students can gain a degree of esteem; and

directing students learning experiences towards feelings of success in an effort to encourage an orientation towards achievement, a positive self concept and a strong sense of self-efficacy, by:

making use of objectives that are challenging but attainable and, when appropriate, that involve student input;

providing knowledge of results by emphasising the positive;

encouraging the development of need achievement, self-confidence, and self-direction in students who need these qualities;

using achievement-motivation training techniques and cooperative-learning methods;

making learning interesting by incorporating activity, investigation, adventure, social interaction and usefulness; and

maintaining a caring student-teacher relationship while creating a positive classroom environment (Davis, 1993).

Traditionally students were forced to complete with one another to increase motivation and learning; in 2010 and beyond, teachers need to move towards allowing their students to cooperatively work with one another to not only obtain rewards but increase motivation, achievement and interpersonal relationships.

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