Sample Essay on Learning

To be an effective teacher is to invest yourself into making a difference in the lives of the students you teach. An effective teacher inspires his/her students with the importance of learning and the freedom of creativity. They provide opportunities for learning by managing information in a way that allows students to attain knowledge and to intellectually, socially, physically, emotionally and spiritually develop to their full potential (Barry and King, 1998:6). Teachers however are not superhuman, though some may think they should be. Teaching is a vocation that requires constant updating of knowledge content and teaching skills (pedagogy); constantly re-evaluating and striving for better methods to accommodate student learning.

Teaching does not predetermine learning: teacher effectiveness is therefore dependent upon the symbiotic relationship which exists between content knowledge and pedagogical ability; one can not exist in isolation of the other.

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A teacher can have all the knowledge in the world but if they can not teach it they will be ineffective teachers, conversely, a teacher may have great teaching skills, but limited content knowledge and therefore will also be an ineffective teacher. Consequently “[…] effective teaching requires at its baseline individuals who are academically able, who have command of the subject they are required to teach [and] who can produce results, mainly those of student academic achievement and social learning.” (Killen, 1995:18)

The effective teacher draws from this notion that teaching is an art and a science. By combining the science of education with the art of intuition effective teachers endeavour to understand and consider how the construction of knowledge, classroom management, relationship with the students and lastly the role of reflection, are central to a student’s ability to process and make meaning from the learning experience.

Malcolm (1995, June:3) asserts “Generally the way we teach is consistent with our deeply embedded beliefs about learning.” Munroe reinforces this in his predictions “[that] exposure to a systematic exploration of the learning process by teachers increases the display of effective teaching behaviours and attitudes to learning” (Munro,10, 2:152,1999). Therefore central to effective teaching is an understanding of the construction of knowledge.

Recent cognitive research recognises that the learner must engage and actively construct their own meaning; this asserts that a students ability to learn is influenced by their existing knowledge, and is therefore achieved by connecting new units of information to his/her own existing beliefs (Barry and King, 1998:28).

Learning however often requires more than just making connections of old ideas to new ones; it sometimes requires the student to restructure their thinking radically. That is, to incorporate the new idea the learner must change the connections amongst the thing they already know. In some instances in order to assimilate the information some learners will distort the information to fit what they already know or reject the information altogether. This research has a number of implications for the effective teacher, especially in light of Munro’s assertion that the impact upon existing knowledge of the learner depends upon the extent to which the teacher is able to activate certain ‘learning functions’; Munro identifies key ‘learning functions’ that impact on the existing knowledge of the learner as: “[…]having a reason or purpose for learning, being in a state of ‘cognitive conflict’ having an impression of the outcome or goal of the learning [and] reviewing what has been learnt.” (Munro,10. 2:152,1999). This has explicit implications for the effective teacher:

• Give students plenty of opportunity for guided and independent practice with new concepts and skills.
• Use techniques such as advanced organiser, key questions and prediction to prepare students for learning.
• Use content that supports all types of learners, such as text, video, audio or multimedia.
• Provide clear and focused instruction, emphasise key points and check student understanding that avoids digression.
• Provide feedback and reinforcement regarding their learning progress.
• Ask higher order questions and give students time to answer.
• Provide regular and focused reviews of key concepts and skills throughout the year to check on and strengthen student understanding.
• Encourage both action and reflection on the part of the learner.
• Provide real-world scenarios that arouse student’s interest and curiosity. (Curriculum Frameworks Document, 1998:33-39

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