Scores of theories have been enunciated over several centuries on the relationship between the learner and the teacher. Styles and methods of delivering knowledge packages have been prescribed from the early days of Gurukul in India and from the days of heuristic pedagogy from adopted during the times of Aristotle and Socrates. Each one of them were born out of the contemporary needs and experiences. They were also sensitive to the local geography, culture and political needs. Moving from the agrarian model to the industrial model of social architecture, with focus on printed knowledge packages of knowledge, the systems underwent a monumental change with focus on mass production in learning systems. With the ushering in of technology, the learning culture and the delivery systems of information, rather than knowledge, re-positioned themselves to the technological platforms to provide parallel learning experiences than serial and individualized learning experiences. Generational changes in technology have again impacted the entire ambit of learning systems. In all these Edu-ventures, the role of the teacher has been quite critical. As the facilitator of the knowledge universe, the teachers took several avatars fashioning themselves to all the needs of the educational world. Currently, questions are raised about the most appropriate model the teachers could adopt to make themselves relevant to a classroom or a learning platform. However, the fact remains that these existing transaction models will also undergo a sea-change with newer technologies manifesting in an unimaginable speed. So, what should a teacher do?
I believe, that immaterial of the platforms the teachers would use, there are ten vital things a teacher should keep in mind for their relationship with the learners. These inputs are vital practices teachers should practice to remain effective, competent and contextual.
Teacher preparedness is critical whatever be the platform of transaction of knowledge. Be it an online classroom, be it a classroom of the past, be it a straight-jacketed learning model promoting rote, be it a blended model that encourages self-learning, the teacher preparedness is vital for effective learning. “Preparedness” comprises of the mental, emotional, psychological and professional aspects of the teacher, apart from the availability of relevant resources for transaction. Preparedness shows the competency level of the teacher – understanding the context, understanding of the concepts, understanding of the delivery model and understanding the client in their own context. Well, one may think it is too much to expect from the teacher, given the burden of the work they have at their table. But that cannot be an excuse for a poor level of preparedness. This preparedness is a great value to their competency and over a period of time it becomes a simple habit.
I have always believed that the first few minutes of a teacher’s presence in the classroom, whatever be its model, makes a world of difference. That is the time, the teachers are able to gravitate the focus, interest and attention of the learners towards them. What should be the tool, process, mode of gravitating the attention would depend exclusively upon the profile of the teacher, as such exercises are largely contextual, time and age appropriate, client and geography sensitive. Further, these exercises might also vary from subject to subject, and also within a given discipline relevant to the pedagogical model to be used in that particular classroom. This exercise would include both the verbal and non-verbal behaviour of the teacher and the positivity they carry with their profile as they start.
Contextuality is very important dynamic in the pedagogical delivery system. It puts a lot of pressure in the minds of the teachers to design their delivery models appropriately. It must be understood that contextuality is not a fixed understanding of a given situation, but is flexible depending on time, day, client psyche, environment and the subject. This facilitates the teacher to bring under the umbrella of the topic, a large variety of learning opportunities which remain as a part of the hidden curriculum. Further, it triggers the dopamine levels of the learners as they look forward to the further interactions with a sense of curiosity, novelty and purpose. Designs of contextuality emerge through a continuous process of critical and creative thinking about the topic to be dealt with and its interface with the learning environment. As such, this practice keeps a teacher always innovative and creative, Teachers with such sensitivities are largely favoured by the learners.
4. Coverage of the knowledge spectrum
Teachers need to understand that their facilitating role is not defined by any text book or a couple of support materials. While the teachers need to stay grounded to the curricular and textual objectives, both general and specific, they should be able to transport the learners to a process of learning engagement with a spectrum of issues associated directly and indirectly with the concepts, so that the learners are able to see the relevance of learning, its importance, its appropriacy and its universe. The treatment of the concepts should facilitate acquisition of relevant skills either immediately or through a process of developing aptitudes for further learning. The way teachers handle the spectrum of the conceptual universe should also trigger the learners for extended learning, self-learning and learning beyond the definitions laid for an examination. This can help in triggering a researching mind also among the learners.
5. Engagement with learners
Though opportunities for individual engagement with learners to impact their learning curve is very much restricted for the teachers, given the size of the classroom or the volume of the content, teachers can always find multiple ways of engagement with learners. Interactivity always doesn’t mean a dialogue, a discussion or a conversation or a situation of oral assessment. Liberal approaches to engagement with learners periodically to reassure them a sense of mentorship, to infuse in them a sense of confidence, to provide a powerful message of their own capabilities, will go a long way in making a teacher purposeful, successful and popular. Classroom engagements should not be militant, but provide a learning freedom which can happen only when the learners are free from fear, compulsions, comments and comparisons. Humour, theatre and threat-free environment will facilitate reaching to different learning styles in the classroom. Questions are raised about the success of the above tactics in the online platforms. It is quite possible to enhance engagement levels even in remote situations. Given the fact, the technology and the learning of the teachers about their competency in technology is still in the native stage, one could expect things to improve over a period of time.
6. Emotionally Competent Stimuli
Cognitive scientists have explained the significant role of emotionally competent stimuli (ECS) in enhancing learning through stronger neural networks. ECS helps in establishing long time memories, transfer of volatile memories to long time memories. They also help in positive correlation between the learning inputs and the learners’ psyche. Passionate teachers mostly have a natural way of exhibiting their content through emotional constructs. However, all teachers need to prepare, design, practice and articulate their content deliveries through ECS. These stimuli also help in establishing a positive relationship between the teacher and the learner, as they strengthen emotional content in pedagogy. Learners tend to appreciate and stand gravitated to the content, even at times when they have low levels of engagement. These situations are not restricted to the kind of disciplines like humanities, but these can be demonstrated well in all disciplines of learning.
Learning is essentially a neural construct. It is influenced by several factors. While several learning theories advocate for the constructivist approaches in learning, both individual and social, recent social dynamics appears to be in favour of social construction of knowledge. It is indeed a participative and collaborative process facilitating extensive peer participation. Peer participation and collaboration helps both in individual construct as well as in re-engineering the individual construct to a social construct with lesser roadblocks. Teachers would do well to articulate their pedagogical processes and content delivery for free intercourse of knowledge so that the losses due to cascading because of an ivory tower approach is minimized. Further, there is a better possibility of knowledge processing facilitating skills acquisition by transfer.
Motivation is key to growth dynamics, both individual and collective. Motivation for performance is always seen in a fear-free, threat-free and stress-free environment. It is challenged in a negative atmosphere. Hence, teachers would do well to create an environment which is conducive motivation through acknowledgement, appreciation and authentication. Usually, the idea of failure, the idea of benchmarking, the idea of competitive denigration and the idea of rejection tend to demotivate a learner. In most occasions, learners start anticipating such things because of the verbal and non-verbal communications in classrooms. These are also learnt through observations when learner preferences are shown by teachers for one reason or the other. Motivation is not the absolute right of gainful performers, but are indeed necessary who struggle to cope in a challenging personal and social environment. It is difficult to find teachers who are consciously appreciative of differentiated learning in a classroom.
9. Insights to learning
Learning is essentially not a superficial activity. It calls for powerful engagement with several facets of brain activities. The human brain has the unique capacity of processing information and knowledge to meet several existential demands. In such engagements, insights into knowledge in the entirety of its landscape is considered. Some of these exercises appear to lead the learner to a level of meta-cognition. This explains why processes that lead to rote learning are not brain friendly. Teachers would do well to provide an overview of the mindscape of the concepts they deal with, so that the learners can reflect and engage with them at their own will, need and comfort. But inadequate exposure to these mindscapes retains the learners in dark and sometimes they are unable to envision better opportunities to play with knowledge. Insights and intuition are two wings on which the flight of knowledge the opportunity to scale heights.
10. Joyful learning
Any pedagogical tool, resource or methodology should ultimately provide a climate for joyful learning. The learner should not only enjoy what one learns, but should look forward to the arrival and presentation of teacher with eagerness and curiosity. Hence, whatever be the limitations in any of the other inputs, the teacher should present even a small bit of information to provoke joyful learning. This would be possible when there is synergy between the learning wavelength and resource wavelength of the teachers. This would mean that the teacher has to be flexible, reachable, emotionally stable, appreciative and accommodative. In such levels of equity and synergy of the wavelengths of both, the learning will be wholesome, willful, credible and progressive.
The tools, resources and instruments of pedagogy might vary from place to place depending on several conditions. However, a good teacher tends to maximize the learning experiences through some of the above inputs that facilitate pedagogy, if not all of them. Though the curricula in the teacher training course advocate many of the above in their documented form, I believe these need to be experienced by every teacher and a balanced and pragmatic approach needs to be adopted.