A qualification, whether for teaching for otherwise, does not make one a professional. The attributes for a professional teacher come from interactions with students, co-workers and parents. It requires a well-mannered, calm, punctual and well trained approach to all situations that may arise over the course of a career while also following and embracing new changes and protocol at the workplace. It is critical to maintain respect and confidentiality within a classroom environment and set examples for students to follow. Arguably, students will lead by example depending on which age group the teacher in question is dealing with. Because of these factors, presenting oneself in a professional manner is imperative to the success of the teacher and students alike.
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It is important to understand that each student is different, and the age groups that one is working with have different attitudes and approaches to challenges and learning. The impact of how you present yourself and the information you deliver to your students can be vastly rewarding or gravely detrimental to the classroom environment. It can be easy for a teacher to make his or herself “popular” to students, but often difficult to balance this with what the curriculum requires and ensuring results the end of term tests/reports. Interaction with a group of students requires a professional standard of behaviour “polite, firm and fair” would be an easy way to sum this up.
Another paramount attribute of a professional teacher is to lead by example in behaviour, dress and manners. Students cannot be expected to act in a calm, professional manner if the teacher they learn from is not observing these standards. In this case, a teacher must be punctual and respectful of those around him/her in order to achieve mutual respect in the classroom. Truthfully, one must be able to present the current subject with confidence and knowledge, granting the students proper fortitude to ask questions. It is important to have knowledge of the subject, but also to portray this knowledge to the students in a way that is easy to understand.
To do this, a teacher must employ pedagogical knowledge; this may include a system or mnemonics, examples, demonstrations, metaphors, simulations or models (Eggen & Kauchak 2010). With visual aids, subjects gradually become simpler to explain and easier for students, and with this, students become less frustrated and more satisfied with the teacher, and themselves.
Module 2 – A failure to target the zones of Proximal Development
“The distance between the actual developmental level as determined by independent problem solving and the level of potential development as determined through problem solving under adult guidance, or in collaboration with more capable peers” (L.S. Vygotsky: Mind in Society p. 86)
From this week’s study into this topic I can deduct many times within my experience where I had failed to target this zone, or the same situation had been put upon me. As a voluntary student of a foreign language, I indeed find many conflicting ideas within non-native speakers, also vast amounts of confusion and disarray when speaking/reading and writing. Recently, a few of my friends and I were practicing our language skills, a new friend of mine was a newcomer to this form of study, and was yet to gain a concrete knowledge of the topic.
It was in this instance where I had, so to say “jumped the gun” on the abilities of those around me, being that I have been studying the topic for more than a year. The newcomer, who had just entered the group, seems confused and frustrated, mainly with the shock that her skills which she believed were well-studied were actually lacking in focus and practicality. Through this disarray of confusing mannerisms I had approached the newcomer offering assistance, however, said assistance was not presented in her mother tongue. There were parts of the language she could understand, parts she could build upon and parts she had not covered yet which only resembled meaningless and confusing sounds. Upon reflection, this greatly represents Vygotsky’s graph (L.S. Vygotsky: Mind in Society) explaining the three specific zones that one can be placed in terms of the subject at the present time. I had given amounts of information to the girl, but not the means to properly use it. A selection of grammar terms that were far beyond what she had heard before would not assist her in constructing sentences and communicating with those around her. At a later date, this was rectified with more collaboration with her, through this practice and development we have both become more advanced with the topic, pointing out each other’s mistakes and forming group discussions on how to improve ourselves.
Module 3 – As a Professional Teacher
As a university student in the discipline of teaching it is easy to assume that on the first day of walking into a classroom, the students will consider a new teacher as a new friend. This would be an ideal situation, however for most new teachers; a very neutral response is given from their new students. It is important in this case, to establish a system of behavioural consequence. This means a system of reinforcement and punishment to keep a positive environment (Eggen & Kauchak 2010 p.168).
The reality is that all faculties at one point or another will be faced with situations where discipline will need to be applied, however it is important to understand which degrees of management need to be applied for different situations. There are three degrees of misbehaviour, and each degree requires different action.
The most subtle of these methods is plain punishment, which decreases the likelihood that the incident will occur again (Eggen & Kauchak 2010 p.168); this can be the event of a student talking in class. The next level is presentation punishment; this is a decrease in behaviour from being given a stimulus. The final level is removal punishment, in which a decrease in behaviour occurs from a stimulus being removed (Eggen & Kauchak 2010 p.168).
Along with understanding these principles, it is critical to know how to apply them effectively, and which methods of ineffective or inappropriate. One degree of these forms is “Desists”. Desists are non-verbal methods that a teacher uses to stop disruptive behaviour (Eggen & Kauchak 2010 p.172). This is appropriate for small disturbances; however this may not be strong enough for a larger disturbance and may require means such as a “Timeout”. A time out is a method involving removing the student from his or her peers so as the student cannot receive positive reinforcement from others. The final method of this is “Detention”, which is similar to the previous time out method. While these two are similar, the detention method is typically used more commonly with older students. This method aims to take away the free time of disruptive students by assigning them with after school time (Eggen & Kauchak 2010 p.172). Most commonly students will need to sit and do nothing for at least half an hour, which for a disruptive student can be very tedious. Therefore, this method is very strong with discouraging the behaviour.
Module 5 – The Importance of Meaningful Learning.
It can be often noted that the motivation and attention span of students can often be hard to grasp and expand upon; this can create many barriers to the learning experience of the student and the teaching experience of the teacher. It is for this reason that educators are constantly examining teaching methods in the aim to create the best environment. Since the birth of education there have been countless psychological theories regarding how information is received, perceived and processed by the learner. One of these many theories the theory of relevance proposed by Dan Sperber and Deirdre Wilson, this theory suggests that one will search for their own meaning within any form of communication (Sperber, Dan and Deirdre Wilson. 1987).
The concept of a real-world task, often called an “authentic task” is to create an activity for the students which require a similar pattern of thought to that required in a real world setting (Eggen & Kauchak, 2010 p.233). This is a useful tool for the teacher to encourage motivation and convey to the students the importance of the topic while preparing for the situation when it occurs out of the classroom environment. A teacher can easily convey the importance of this by remarking upon the studies in previous years that the students had partaken in. For example, a first grade student will learn to read and write, because of the extreme relevance of this task, it is placed as an educational priority for young students. Reading and writing become increasingly important once the students begin new studies, the new skill gained from this education has prepared them for a great variety of real world situations.
Meaningful learning occurs within real world tasks because of the relevance and impact on motivation it gives the students. A student drawing meaning and relevance from a task is a critical issue in the retention of knowledge, a strong amount of communication and involvement with students is a highly profitable tool in the aim of increasing knowledge. It is critical to display the information of the task to the students, but equally as important to explain why it needs to be taught. A teacher can easily gather materials to demonstrate real-world tasks, such as creating models, giving examples and preparing presentations. The greatest learning occurs when the students knows that the knowledge is critically important to obtain, for this reason, the most meaningful learning occurs within real-world tasks.
Module 6 – Motivational Learning.
Motivation is at the heart of all learning (Eggen & Kauchak, 2010 p.283), it involves goal-directed activity being instigated and sustained (Eggen & Kauchak 2010. P.284). To begin to understand motivation, it is important for the learner to ask why the information is meaningful to them. Every teacher wants their students to be motivated, and many mistakenly believe that the content they are teaching while provide motivation the students without any amount of stimulation. While some students are naturally driven learners, others require inspiration from their teachers and peers, students who are internally driven to learn will more often willingly work to improve their skills (Wigfield, A. Et al. 2004. p. 299-309). Some students will be self-determined, and possess an internal motivation to act and control their environment (Eggen & Kauchak 2010. P.291), many students with this kind of internal motivation are consciously aware of their academic progress (Schacter, Daniel. 2011. p.340).
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There are many ways to encourage motivation within the classroom, along with giving rewards to those show motivation and encourage others. Some ways to encourage students include visual methods such as creating models and presentations, the increases the attention span of students. Other methods to increase motivation include, praising students in big and small ways, spreading enthusiasm, creating real-world tasks to raise interest in the subject and involving the students in classroom activities. An open and positive atmosphere is one that all educators should desire to create; this means a democratic and communicative approach to learning. A teacher should call upon students in groups as well as individually and create lesson plans that differ from one another. One can also call upon methods such as incentive theory, in which a reward is presented for a positive action.
Another useful method of motivating and empowering students is to hand over a certain extent of responsibility, many primary school have systems that permit older students to pass knowledge onto new and younger students. This system is useful for two factors; the younger student gains knowledge from a peer, rather than a teacher, this makes the student feel comfortable, simultaneously the older student is entrusted with a duty of care and responsibility toward the younger student, this can greatly increase motivation and pride in one’s own skills.
It is critical to view your students as customers receiving a service, and a certain level of service is expected. As with any service provided, it is important to keep ones customers interested and returning, the social construct of a classroom can be easily related to this.
Module 9 – The Essential Skills of a Teacher
A great teacher needs to be a great person, a great teacher can come in many forms and the style of teaching may not always be strictly academically oriented. A great teacher is one who does not leave a single student behind, one who is not afraid to change the plan of the lesson on short notice and conveys knowledge that is easy to understand while encouraging the joys of learning. A learning environment aims to expand not only knowledge, but social interaction; an important technique is to focus on involving each and every student in an environment of cooperation and social tranquillity.
This environment may be difficult to achieve, and the techniques for many are more easily conveyed in text rather than real-world interaction. Because of this fact, faced with great hostility in the beginning, many new teachers must call upon their training and personality to create a classroom of keen young learners. One must be equipped with a set of essential skills from academic and personal backgrounds. Some of these skills include attitudes, organisation, communication, focus, feedback, questioning, review and closure (Eggen & Kauchak, 2010 p.400). With these skills, a teacher can organise and motivate a class, inspiring students to further pursue new knowledge and complete previously set goals.
Effective communication is the key to any social environment; I believe I possess precise language, connected discourse, transition signals and emphasis to convey a point to an audience. Feedback to students is essential for progress, praise given to individual students helps develop relationships; this must be equally distributed among all students for the greatest effect. A teacher praises a student based on answers they expect to hear at the same level of answered they actually hear (Good & Brophy, 2008).
It is paramount to communicate and collaborate with students effectively, to this effect one should desire to create what is referred to as a “community of learners”. This community aims to create a learning environment in which all students and teachers work together for the good of everyone (Eggen & Kauchak, 2010, p.228). A good teacher emphasises the importance of sociocultural theory to create further dimensions of learning, this theory suggests that one should place importance on the larger cultural context in which learning occurs (Kozulin, 1998).
As a teacher in training, I believe I possess social and enthusiastic skills to create a positive environment, with the further study into this degree I can gain a comprehensive understanding of how to convey raw knowledge to an audience more effectively, I believe through experience and study I can improve these skills. The most difficult skill to acquire and develop is a vast cultural understanding of the different cultures and attitudes faced in today’s classrooms. Although these challenges may seem daunting in the beginning, they produce great effects one the goals are accomplished.
Eggen, P., & Kauchak, D. (2010). Educational psychology: windows on classrooms. New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc.
Good, T. L., & Brophy, J. E. (2008). Looking in Classrooms (10th ed.). New York: Pearson.
Kozulin, Alex 1998. Psychological Tools: A Sociocultural Approach to Education
L.S. Vygotsky: Mind in Society: Development of Higher Psychological Processes
Schacter, Daniel. (2011) “Psychology”. Worth Publishers.
Sperber, Dan and Deirdre Wilson. (1987) Précis of Relevance: Communication and Cognition. Behavioral and Brain Sciences. 10, 697-754.
Wigfield, A., Guthrie, J. T., Tonks, S., & Perencevich, K. C. (2004). Children’s motivation for reading: Domain specificity and instructional influences. Journal of Educational Research.
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