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Through years of researching for a best teaching paradigm to improve my teaching skills during the earlier 2000, I have learned to apply three importance concepts that contribute towards effective communication with students. These concepts are cultural content, physical context, and active listening: Understanding the different form of values, beliefs, habits and practices of the cultural context of my students help me in planning the lesson structures more effectively as they usually influence the way a lesson is conducting; When factoring physical context into a learning environment, it allows me to consider all physical constraints or strengths of the learning environment, as well as identifying various form of noises that may distract student's learning; and being an active listener helps me to control and facilitate the progress of lectures in class. Through the learning progress of researching for a best teaching method has led to my understanding that without the appropriateness of a learning setting and application of effective communication in planning, but simply relying on a teaching paradigm will not create learner effectiveness. Thus, effective communication is an essential integral of teaching paradigms! This has changed my teaching perspective from a transmission teacher to an apprentice teacher.
In 20th century, teaching paradigm was simply typical as most of the teachers did the same way in course delivery - teacher-centered instructional teaching. Effective communication in class was not significantly attempted in those days. Today, effective communication has become an essential integral of teaching paradigms. Understanding the factors and concepts that contribute towards effective communication and barriers such as noises will help teachers to develop appropriate strategies for teaching and learning environment.
I was teaching Office Skills course sometime back in the earlier 2000. The students were mainly local working adults with a mix of different ethnic groups and most of them were with very low proficiency level in English language; they usually feel shy to speak up and respond very little in class. The class size that I taught was about 15 students, and the classrooms assigned to the course were usually much bigger in size and with centered control air-conditioning installed. Learning to actively engaging students' attention in class has helped me in transforming my teaching prospective from a transmission teacher to an apprentice teacher. I have learned three concepts and applied them to situations from these students in order to enhance their learning: cultural context, physical context, and active listening.
There was an anti-social student who sat quietly at a corner in one of the Office Skills courses. She has shown diligence in her studies, but she hardly passed any of the modules in the course. It seemed to me that what prevented her from doing well was lack of confidence and fear of failure that forbade her to make contribution in group course work and ask questions in class, as well as speaking coherently among peers.
Being a transmission teacher then, I faced difficulties in getting the girl to understand the course contents. After sharing her problems with other teachers, I learned that when the audience does not have a strong knowledge of the subject area, they depend heavily on the course structure in learning. I redesigned the lessons in progressive structure by highlighting the "5W1H" concepts in class. Towards the end of every lecture, I led the class through a list of specific key learning outcomes to reinforce and enhance understanding of the related topics. Few months later, she showed significant improvement in her results, and a year later, she passed the certification in Office Skills.
In most of my evening classes, to involve the students in active interaction was tactful as most of them were exhausted after a long day's work. I remember that my confidence was put to test during an evening lecture where students were as silent as portray. Despite all efforts that I tried, they simply did not respond to any of my questions. This has strongly led me to believe that I must be very boring and lacking in teaching skills.
The worse thing was that one of the students had actually dozed off about an hour after class started. My abilities to connect with the students became questionable. I started to reflect and checked on all possibilities that led to the ineffective communication and failing to capture students' attention. I eventually noticed that it rained heavily that night and we could even hear the pounding sound of the rain through the windows of the classroom. The room temperature was very cold even though it was adjusted to room temperature. PowerPoint slides were used in lecture, thus, half of the lightings in the classroom was switched off for the purpose.
Realising the situation and the constraint of the physical layout and structure of the classroom, I switched on all the lights, asked students to copy diagrams, which I drawn on the whiteboard instead of carrying on with the slide presentation. Later on at the end of the day, I tried to probe on the cause of their behaviours. Still there were not many responds, but a few of them responded and assured me that it was the rain and not me. The others nodded their heads to signal agreement to the statement made.
Uses of SPATIAL model [Fulton, R.D. (1991)] in teaching addresses to my understanding on the conceptualisation of the physical environment for improving adult learner satisfaction, participation and achievement in learning, and it has built my understanding of the active listening concept as well.
I have a student tended to interrupt during all lectures and weaved in any topic that interested her. To deal with competitive listener like her would require careful strategize when preparing the lesson plan. As a lecturer, I could not avoid her entirely; neither could I allow her to distract the class at all times. Hence, I need to identify the different types of blocks to listening in class, and led the students back to the subject areas. And I can assure you that this is very challenging and I am still learning to be an active listener.
I believe that every class will have students with different personalities and different level of learning abilities. Likewise, students from different contexts will develop different abilities in communication skills. I realised that communication in class is not a channel of single communication, but a dual communication channel rather; and teaching can be learned through critical reflective practice.
Through years of self-directed learning, I was motivated not to teach as I had during the first few years of my career. Students had changed, likewise to their learning needs. I come to believe about learner-centered teaching through numerous of confluence of events and experiences and that influenced my pedagogical thinking. Finding a balance equation between noises and contexts serve as a platform for me to synthesize and build on effective communication strategies to influence behaviours of the students through the settings of the learning environment.