Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Teaching Basics

I met a very good friend today. By very good friend I mean the kind of friend who I don’t see regularly, but when we sit down and talk they are always … always … fruitful occasions. We can get as deep as we need and there’s often something said that makes me go back and ponder on some of the true things of life.

Today whilst we were conversing he shared about the need to get back to basics on what it is to follow Jesus. He looked at how easy it can be to get distracted with other peripheral issues and make them the big day and avoid the main things. Whereas when our focus is on the basics we never stray from what could ever make us successful in life. It is almost as though the basics work as a seed and we must get back to that seed to get an idea of what kind of plant we really are meant to be.

Today’s teacher training session reminded me of that principle. We teased out some things about establishing aims and objectives and key concepts in terms of what it is to set objectives. It was a draining session in some ways … that being considering some of the material being laid out and how it fit into the bigger picture of what we’re going to learn. It is also still the initiation stages in terms of learning the system of the course structure and what’s expected, how and when. It was looking at those basics though and understanding what to have in approaching the subject. (I’ve used a word for which I would be shot if it were applied to an objective – understand is not a concept easily measured and so requires something else in terms of an active verb to state the intention.)

I have found it fascinating to consider the different ways that people learn and the different methods that can be used to meet those tastes. We have affirmed again that the deal of teaching is getting something across to a group of people who differ in their learning style. The irony is, however, to effectively put together something that could possibly meet the tastes of an individual is based on generalities in terms of definitions for teaching methods. Sometimes I’m not sure if the pupil-focussed approach stretches the teacher beyond his own capabilities, but I guess it is good to be stretched in considering what the outcome of your teaching should be.

When looking at these issues it baffles me again that the highest place of learning in the formal education structure – university – does not reflect these important issues on the whole and persist in methods that it as learning institution itself would hardly describe as an effective learning method, i.e. the lecture style. My experience of Philosophy and Politics back at Essex University was mostly of the lecture then tutorial method. Looking back it makes it all the more remarkable that I made it through that as I did.

Looking wider at the issue of how best to learn, when I consider some of the tensions of the education system and pressures on teachers, it reaffirms my scepticism towards the mainstream education system being the best place for my children to be educated. A holistic approach to learning incorporating the key facets of the individual whom you are teaching is something the system is not set up to do at the level most effective (I believe it’s the affective domain to which I refer). It is way too taxing to expect our system to be able to get children to engage with that on the attention they deserve, not just because of class sizes, though that is an issue, but because of the nature of the investment in the child that is required.

So lots to take on board and ponder. Much to work on and the plan is that I will do so over the weekend and get myself up to speed as much as I can. So far so good and there are a lot of connecting points with other projects and schemes I’m considering. After all to be a good teacher, you have to be a good student, and being a good student can allow me to stretch myself as a reader and a writer – that can only mean good things for pursuing God through the gifts He’s given me. Keep praying.

For His Name's Sake



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