Teaching and learning

Why Stop Teaching?

Stop teaching! That’s what I say to myself when I feel I’m too invasive in my teaching, when I interfere too much in the classroom activities, when I jump at every hurdles that my students encounter. Being invasive is mainly due to my quest for perfection, when I want every little bit of my teaching to be perfect.  We have been told that teaching is being actively involved in everything. Being constantly active is considered as a value.

Lately, I have read an article about not interfering in the teaching by Scott Thornbury which reminded me that silence, like in music,  is part and parcel of the teaching process. Silence can be more productive than being busy interfering  in  every bit of the teaching activities.

Merits of not interfering

Not interfering bears so many advantages:

  • Limiting the teacher’s interference within the classroom has a major role in enhancing and maintaining a better learning since learning is experiential and much more autonomous.
  • Reducing teacher’s talk and increasing students involvement in their own learning leads to bestowing more responsiblity of learning on students.
  • Providing opportunity for students to consider the underlying principles of the subject they are learning. For example, efl or esl students discover the rules of the language and infer the meaning of vocabulary items by themselves.
  • By stepping back you are providing much room for students to show their creativity. Most of the times teachers stifle students innovative ideas by being too controlling and dominant.
  • Limiting teachers interference doesn’t mean they do absolutely nothing and become lazy. By being less dominant, teachers have enough time to be mindful, standing back and pondering what’s going on in the classroom, what’s working and what’s not, what needs fixing and what needs recycling. This is only possible if the teacher observes learners struggling to learn. Intervention instead of interference may be necessary at times, but students must be involved actively, in the sense of Caleb Gattegno’ s silent way, to take responsibility of their own learning.
  • Reducing  teachers authoritative teaching frees students to learn in a low affective filter. Learners needs are taken into account and are treated with more respect by being true humans instead of recipients to be filled.
  • Stepping back just makes teachers become good active listeners, hence encouraging real conversations within the classroom.
  • Getting the students actually talk and listen to each other is a challenge that can be overcome only by minimal intervention on the part of the teacher.
  • Students working together yields effective learning. Students work harder to develop their listening skills and have to work harder to express meaning in a way that can be understood.

This is said, I’d like to mention that traditional methods of teaching consider that all-knowing teachers must be the central element of the teaching process, that students are there to receive knowledge. While this has long been criticized, are teachers ready to change their mindset and allow students to be real humans?

What activities or ideas do you use to reduce your interference and increase instances of healthy learning experiences in your  teaching?

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1 Response

  1. I completely agree with what you say here! It is always a struggle for me, however, when teaching TOEIC & TOEFL, because in many ways I am the expert 🙂 However, I think I did more teacher-centric teaching when I first began to teach ESL, because I was less confident of a teacher–on some unconscious level I felt that I had to be the authority figure in the room or the students would not listen to me. I think that was also caused by the fact that when I first was teaching ESL tests I didn’t have a clear idea of good test strategies/methods; in essence, insecurity caused me to try and create an overly-controlled classroom environment.

    Now, I try as much as possible to get my students to work together. One thing I going to try this month in my TOEFL class is have the students work in pairs on different questions from their partner–then they have to explain their answers to someone who has never seen the question. The goal of this is to get the students to verbalize their thought process more, enabling greater consciousness on how they think, and helping them make epiphanies about what they might be missing when it comes to looking for clues in TOEFL reading passages.

    Do you have any techniques that you use that help elicit more student-to-student interactions?

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