I consider myself fortunate in that my personal learning experience has been positive overall. This may be because I enjoyed learning from an early age, and was receptive to new learning experiences – it might also be due to having attended a private school and being in relatively small-sized class groups where attention could be given to each student according to their needs. Further, it might have been enhanced by streaming, as I was able to progress in line with my ability – and to benefit from the challenge of other equally capable pupils. Certainly, I have little recollection from my schooldays of poor teaching delivery.
Contrasting that with experience in later life, I have undertaken a number of short courses with different training providers during my working life, and found some examples of tutors who have been poorly prepared for a group of students with a range of abilities. For example, a recent course I attended was aimed at Level 1 students, but in a job-specific technical subject requiring IT skills; I have good IT skills, and a reasonable understanding of the technicalities of the subject, while other students had low IT skills and little or no technical knowledge. The result was unfortunately that most of each lesson passed – for me – in waiting for something to do as I had completed each task within a few minutes, and the tutor had made no provision for higher achievers. This was demotivating for me, and is something which I would hope to avoid in my own preparation and delivery.
The most memorable trainer I have worked with is my skydiving coach, who I observed working with others as well, always on a one-to-one basis, and he was able to work out the right approach to bring out the best in each individual. For some, he would use a quite didactic approach, particularly when working with students from a forces background (he is himself an ex-Para); for others he would use a straightforward approach with reference to the physics of skydiving, and relying on their existing physical or sporting experience to help them undertake the correct manoeuvres easily. In my own case, he used a simplistic approach which combined information about why something would work, proof of the physics through demonstrations with models, and finally a high proportion of muscle memory exercises to reinforce the information my body needed to retain despite anything my mind might be trying to contradict. And overall, he used encouragement and appreciation of any small achievement or forward progress, to support me each step of the way, and in a way which showed respect for my limitations and how I was trying to overcome them. This was in contrast to some of his colleagues, who were sometimes quite dismissive of students who were very slow to grasp the basics, but he never made me feel inadequate (I was quite good enough at doing that myself!) and I was able to continue until I finally qualified as a solo skydiver.
My experiences have shown me that it is crucial to assess the learners’ preferred learning styles and adapt to them in order to be an effective teacher.
Lashley (1995, p21) states “Learning styles are best understood as the characteristics which a student brings to studying and learning situations.”
Petty (2004, p41) states “... students might be very varied in their prior learning, motivation, maturity, ‘learning style’ and in other respects. You need to teach in a way that accommodates these differences ...”
It is also important to communicate to your students that you value and respect them as individuals, and to take the time to discover things about them.
www.belb.org.uk/teachers/i_epd.../famous_teaching_quotes.pdf quotes M Scott Peck, who stated “The more children know that you value them ... the more willing they will be to listen to you and afford you the same esteem. And the more appropriate your teaching, based on your knowledge of them, the more eager children will be to...
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