Know your learners

An essential ingredient for a successful learning experience is the teacher’s understanding of those they are working with. If this is not taken into consideration, the content of the lesson would likely be out of alignment with the capabilities of the learners, either far to complex, or too simplified, to be of any worth. This will hinder the progress learners are capable of.


This work is for reference only, please note it has been through the TurnItIn system, therefore you cannot plagarise my work. All work is in British English.


The optimum way to implement this is through a cycle of assessment, evaluation, planning and teaching (Owen, 1999). This is clearly shown to be advantageous in the study done by the (American) Southwest Educational Development Laboratory (SEDL) in 2008. In this study (The Professional Teaching and Learning Cycle) the SEDL group highlight the importance of the cyclic system that is as distilled down to the following: Study, Select, Plan, Implement, Analyze, Adjust.

This outlines the basis of a comprehensive system (if somewhat concisely represented here) that I use myself already in the classroom. I have found that trying something ‘new’ with a (my) group will create a different dynamic that will either work as intended or not work so well and be avoided in future, this being solely in context of my current practice.

The initial assessment that is critical to operating within this cycle makes it possible to implement it. This includes basic points of assessment; interviews before the course starts, appraisal of their qualification prerequisites (where applicable) and in turn the individual needs when it comes to the actual course content. This helps identify strengths and weaknesses that members of the group have (or don’t have) and in turn this allows you as the teacher to follow the rest of the cycle. These initial appraisals of ability highlight the need to adjust to the needs of ALS, VAK and more obvious disabilities or disorders that would be otherwise missed or under accommodated for. This impacts the rest of the cycle negatively, and the learners directly, if not instantaneously.

When learners have their needs met in the classroom (specifically in relation to the Visual Auditory & Kinesthetic model of teaching), they tend to have an increase in confidence in their abilities (Fleming, 1992). This leads to enhanced tutor-student engagement automatically, even if it were low to begin with.

For example, it would be very challenging to teach photography by simply talking about it to students; one needs a combination of the camera (in hand), visual queues (projected or on screen) with the standard auditory guidance in order for the lessons to be understandable and easy enough to follow. In this case one does not work entirely effectively without the other, more in fact it degrades the quality with its omission.

There is also the pastoral aspect of knowing ones’ learners.  I find contact with students, be it formal tutorials or even update chats once a week is always worth the time (Gravells, 2012). This is because my students are working progressively through to a final product and in turn large gaps in contact are problematic for their ongoing support and learning process. In creative media and design, it is not always best to have extensive amounts of independent working by students. Another worthy reason for regular face to face contact is that it allows the teacher to pick up on anything that might become an issue with regard to safeguarding for the student.

There are a multitude of things that could potentially hinder a learning process and the teacher’s role is to help mitigate those issues as best as they can. This process also allows the teacher to provide the opportunity for learners to contact services for support outside the classroom in terms of assisting study in numeracy, literacy and ICT. Often this is an open, optional process for the student but nevertheless it helps them feel included, understood and most importantly supported.

In a more ‘inclusive’ sense, knowing not only the learners’ academic ability, a little knowledge of a groups overall background circumstances/upbringing can help avoid any unintended misinterpretation of meaning in someone’s words; be that the teacher or other students. This should be considered in the creation of content for session presentations –
i.e. use of particular names, making faith-oriented references, ethnic-representation-balance in images, PowerPoints, worksheets, etc.

Assessments of a student, in the form of an interview (and in my field with a portfolio of work in any format) would help place the student in the correct level or course of study. Students may have or need prerequisite basis qualifications, however they might even still be lacking in literacy or numeracy; both of which all students must take seriously and work towards improving no matter what level they are.

To conclude, the teacher must have an unobscured view of a students’ qualifications, background and ability in order to best help them. This means putting in the time to assess this. If one does not, then the consequences can affect not only the individual learner, but the dynamic of a whole learner group, their course and in turn the outcomes for all involved. This is not an ideal outcome and can be avoided through use of the continuous improvement generated from the teaching-learning cycle, in conjunction with understanding of the learners learning style and background experiences.

(874 words without references after adjustments to fulfil referral requirements)


References:

 

Petty, G 1993. Teaching Today. 5th ed. London: Oxford University Press
Southwest Educational Development Laboratory 2008. The Professional Teaching and Learning Cycle: Introduction, 2nd Edition, Austin, Texas: SEDL Publishing.

 

Naparstek, N 2002, Successful Educators : A Practical Guide for Understanding Children’s Learning Problems and Mental Health Issues, Greenwood Press, Westport, CT, USA. Available from: ProQuest ebrary. [6 October 2015].

 

Nichols, JD 2010, Teachers As Servant Leaders, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., Blue Ridge Summit, PA, USA. Available from: ProQuest ebrary. [6 October 2015].

 

Berry, B, Byrd, A, & Wieder, A 2013, Teacherpreneurs : Innovative Teachers Who Lead But Don’t Leave, John Wiley & Sons, Somerset, NJ, USA. Available from: ProQuest ebrary. [6 October 2015].

 

Fleming, N. D. and Mills, C. E, 1992, ‘Not Another Inventory, Rather a Catalyst for Reflection’, To Improve the Academy, Vol. 11, p. 137, 141 -145.

 

Richard C. Owen 1999, The Teaching and Learning Cycle,

by Richard C. Owen Publishers, Inc.