Archive for May, 2021

Quality Teaching – Five Loopholes

May 15th, 2021

1. Goals of teaching-a prerogative of teacher

If perceived in terms of aspects of students that a teacher is supposed to attend to, the goal of any teaching process can be spotted anywhere along a continuum. At one end of the continuum objective of teaching is highly structured and mandatory. At the other end it is structure free where teacher’s discretionary power sets the objectives and it is purely his/her choice. In the mandatory, structured side there is a prescribed syllabus, explicit learning objectives and consequent cognitive skills to be developed in the students by the act of teaching. In the unstructured side of the continuum, the teacher is expected to deal with those aspects of students which are not prescribed in the syllabus but indispensable for effective assimilation and mastery of all things prescribed in the structured mandatory side. They are known as “non-brain” aspects of student life. They include students’ mindset, motivation to learn, effort, goal setting skills, his/her study habits, self-efficacy etc. Whether a teacher should pay attention to these dimensions of student life is purely subjected to the discretionary power of the teacher. In this sense, quality teaching is not exclusively a matter of transferring of knowledge prescribed in the syllabus. But it is very much linked to teacher’s willingness to explore non-mandatory areas in student-teacher relationship. In the realm of non-mandatory aspects of teacher-student relationship teacher can exercise her autonomous power as nobody can question her choices she makes here. She/he is free to exercise inclusiveness in teaching by attending to emotional, social, psychological aspects of learning or to remain totally impervious to these “non-brain” aspects of students learning. But bitter truth is, non-brain aspects of learning like motivation, study habits, self-efficacy, resilience etc has crucial role in the proper functioning of many cognitive aspects of learning like processing of information, attention, retention, reproducing or recalling of learned material (memory), creative skills, reasoning etc. Ongoing research findings in various branches of psychology, education, neurosciences etc vouch for it.

2. Evaluation of Teaching in the era of knowledge explosion

The actual success of teaching lies in teacher’s willingness to pay attention to cognitive as well as non-cognitive aspects of student brain and regulate teaching accordingly. Not much educational institutions have the systemic regulations for evaluating whether teaching is all inclusive. But all institutions assess teaching professionals for more objective aspects like finishing the topics at right time, class hours teacher spends with students, timely evaluation of assignments, class tests conducted etc. In many institutions, evaluating teachers for their quality of teaching is mainly confined to the criterion of percentage of students who come out successfully in the examination. Beyond that, institutions do not probe into the queries related to quality teaching.

Pass percentage of students can never be a reliable criteria for assessing the quality of teaching in this era of knowledge explosion where the teacher is one of the myriad available sources of knowledge. Innumerable resources like local tuition centers, internet search engines, free online courses are at the finger tip of student population. For a student of modern world teacher is only a formal figure in the process of knowledge acquisition. Compared to gigantic digital sources like internet, a teacher’s repository of knowledge is limited and rather inferior. Moreover, availability of interactive video lectures on any topic under the sky undermines the necessity of attending real class rooms for learning. Hence pass percentage is not always an exclusive product of class-room teaching and nevertheless a proof for quality in teaching.

3. Classroom teaching-teacher is the king.

Social skills that can be developed by attending the schools during early stages is the major factor that forces parents to send their wards to school. In this era of technology, the profession of teaching is ticking just because of one-one face to face relationship the class room ambience can offer to the student. Hence quality of class room teaching is a matter of maintaining the quality of that one-one relationship. It is never a matter of transferring of knowledge rather it is a matter of quality with which knowledge is transferred. This quality is purely a function of inclusiveness with which teacher deals student’s life. Teacher’s discretionary power determines actual quality of teaching as there is no law insisting teaching to be all inclusive. There aren’t any systemic regulations insisting that teacher should attend to social, emotional, psychological or moral aspects of student life. Depletion of quality education in any society is due to lack of viable strategies to ensure whether there is inclusiveness in teaching. Whether teaching is taking place for transferring knowledge or transforming student life is the crucial question.

No profession is as mysterious as teaching is. Nobody can assess objectively what a teacher does inside the class room. Nor can anybody constrain activities of a teacher in the class by suggesting what he/she should do. The quality of classroom ambience is the prerogative of a qualified teacher. The subjectivity within which teacher-student relationship is functioning is so precarious that teacher has total freedom to personalize it. Even the students’ evaluation of teachers can not make any considerable impact on “how a teacher relates to his/her professional space”. No wonder educationists and their research attempts do not cater much to the criteria for measurement and evaluation of teaching process for its quality. So far there are few valid tools to evaluate effectiveness of teaching. This mysterious aura surrounding the teacher is so captivating and teacher’s autonomy inside the class room is so superior that no force from outside can curb it. Often administrative restrictions or rules and regulations of the system can not penetrate the liaison developed between the teacher and her/his students. Because teacher is the sole authority who determines the quality or authenticity of interpersonal relationship which is the basis of entire process of teaching.

4. Two kinds of teaching

The above described autonomy of teachers often appear as an insurmountable block for the effective implementation of many innovations in the arena of teaching. To understand how the autonomous power of teacher in the class room become a hindrance to quality teaching, one must realize how a teacher wields her autonomy inside the class room. Broadly speaking, there are only two kinds of teachers. First, there are teachers who cater only to the cognitive requirements of their students through their subject of teaching. But there are teachers who attend to the concrete cognitive requirements as well-as non-cognitive aspects of students during teaching-learning process. The later group of teachers step into those regions of student-teacher relationship which is not explicitly prescribed in the curriculum. In the process teachers’ humane qualities combine with the subject expertise and the autonomous power of teacher aims at quality in teaching. Teaching becomes a creative act for such teachers where they actively engage in discovering and channelizing the potential of their students in the right direction.

5. Professional commitment-in the commercialized world

Gone are days where the entire world was assured of the quality teaching as something ingrained in the disposition of the teacher. Concern for students’ psychological aspects was something spontaneously oozes out of the teaching process. In those days nobody dared to check or cared to evaluate whether teacher had a holistic bend in her/his attitudes towards students. Evaluating a teacher for this was deemed as ridiculous as asking a surgeon whether he cared for the life of the patient lying on the operation table. But in the modern world it is not so. Nobody can deny that as in any field, commercialism is eating into the profession of teaching too and retaining the quality of teacher student relationship is getting difficult than ever. Erosion of quality teaching is corroding educational systems and depriving it of its vitality and sanctity.

Remedial teaching can be a remedy for inadequacies took place during the transferring of knowledge. But there can be no remedy if a teacher does not venture into the social, emotional, psychological factors that determines effective assimilation of transferred knowledge into the life of students. In the one-sided teaching transferred knowledge will remain as a lifeless, undigested foreign limb inside the student. Student can never apply the acquired knowledge neither for enhancement of his faculties nor for his well-being. Quality education will remain a distant dream and society will suffer from talent crunch. So solution lies in demystify teaching. Let there be clear objectives and means to asses quality in teaching. The real reforms in education should begin inside the class room. Let educational policies assume a micro level approach where each student gets his due of quality education.