What makes teachers mentors?

Last Updated 27 January 2010, 12:12 IST

Every profession demands certain specific skills and competence on the part of its practitioners. If one believes that teaching is a noble profession, he or she should demonstrate certain skills and competencies which can influence learning and help students achieve their goals.

Teachers are expected to be knowledgeable in the subjects they have chosen. They must be thorough with the subject matter, they must understand the needs of their students, and they must develop effective teaching strategies.

One size does not fit all
Teachers know that learning is neither easy nor simple; teaching too is difficult as well as complex. And, certain skills are essential for effective teaching.

An effective teacher understands that different educational objectives require different teaching skills and behaviour.

For instance, a Mathematics teacher understands that productive drill and practice lead to better learning. This approach may not be appropriate in literature.

Questioning skills
Questioning is a tool to make the teaching-learning process more lively and participatory. Questions stimulate discussion among students. This is possible only when the questions are of good quality. Questions should offer students the ability to think for themselves and apply the knowledge which they have already acquired. The questions framed should not lead the children to mere ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers. Questions must be concise, clear, specific and grammatically correct.
Questions must be relevant to the content. They should be brief, specific, stimulating and purposeful.
The power of ‘why’
The difficulty level of the questions should be increased gradually. The questions asked by the teacher should help the students progress in their learning. The teacher should address the questions to all students. If the response from the students is encouraging, the teacher can frame questions to increase critical thinking among students. This helps the students achieve higher learning objectives.

A teacher must be dedicated to continue learning both about the teaching-learning process and about the subject he/she teaches. A teacher should create an environment in which all students — gifted, average and slow learners — actively participate in the teaching-learning process. The main purpose of classroom teaching is to encourage behavioural change in the desired directions. Therefore, a teacher must be conscious of the goals and aims of education.

Evaluation plays an enormous role in the teaching-learning process because it is very useful to bring improvement in teaching as well as the curriculum.

Assessment skills
Evaluation is concerned with assessing the effectiveness of teaching strategies, methods and techniques. It provides feedback to the teachers about teaching and learning.
Improvements in the curriculum, texts and teaching materials are brought about with the help of evaluation. Evaluation mainly manifests itself in a perceived need for “regular reporting” to parents. However, it fulfils higher purposes like quality control in education and selection to a higher grade. It helps one to take decisions about specific future activities and provides guidance to further studies and career.

During the course of a school day, teachers, principals and managements make many decisions about students and help students make many decisions for themselves. Evaluation helps teachers better the teaching-learning process and achieve their objectives of teaching concepts, diagonising learning difficulties of students, assisting students in their problems of adjustment, preparing reports of pupils’ progress etc.
Evaluation is not just another word for assessment. The quality of the learner’s learning may well be one of the outcomes we need to evaluate. But many other factors may be equally worth looking at. Evaluation needs to be systematic, planned and openly discussed. It is not just keeping records or writing a final report.

Counselling students and studying the psychology of students are also important aspects of effective teaching.

(Published 27 January 2010, 12:11 IST)

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