We speak of “Google trends”, “Trending Searches”, “Find out what is trending near you right now”, “Fashion trends”, etc. All these have one thing in common: Trends can be long-lasting or short-lived depending on individual perception.
So when I speak of “Trending Ideas in The Teaching of English@High School” I am looking at the general tendency or direction towards change that has been occurring in the teaching of English. Has it been beneficial to our educational system or there has been constraints towards such?
One abiding truth is how English teaching has undergone tremendous changes over the years. From Gradgrind’s Victorian era of “teach[ing] boys and girls nothing else but Facts” to the innovative Hyper Island method, the trends in our education systems worldwide have been immense.
For starters, Thomas Gradgrind is a fictional character in Charles Dickens’ “Hard Times” who proceeds upon the principle of totalitarianism in its most rigid form. His theory of education was based upon facts, figures and statistics. Thus, his name, Gradgrind, is now used generically to refer to someone who is hard, lacking warm feelings and imagination. A simple question is asked, “Is our education system ‘hard, lacking warm feelings and imagination’ towards its end product – the learners?”
On the other hand, the Hyper Island model of teaching originated in Sweden where students are encouraged to lead their own learning; are supported to develop skills to evaluate and reflect on their own performance and on the performance of their peers. It sounds like organized chaos but the approach is disciplined and serious.
Sorry folks, I digressed a bit but those two divergent systems, to a certain extent, are the building blocks of our English teaching today. Needless to say, the system has been renovated a countless times, revamped and reflected upon to meet the ever-changing times we live. In other words, one might ask:
- What are we actually trying to achieve with educational teaching?
- What are the common trends affecting and effecting English teaching?
There is no doubt that students are burdened with studying, learning and grasping materials and information more than ever before. As a result, a change in the trends, especially one in the teaching and learning process of English has had to undergo a transition as well – albeit, for the better. Hence, during the fifty years or so, various important factors have combined and competed against each other to affect and effect current ideologies in the teaching of English. Such ideologies like the ineffective methodologies, unsuitable materials, or the integration of contextualized teaching have, negatively, affected English learners in the classroom.
I have some posts in the coming weeks which focus on Trending Ideas in The Teaching of English@High School. Here I am starting off with Beliefs and Commitment of Teachers, as the building block to 21st century education.The next post is on Content and Language Integrated Learning.
Should you have some good ideas about our noble profession not mentioned here, please add them in the comments page. Thanks.
A. Beliefs and Commitment of Teachers
Whether one is a new or experienced English teacher, there are certain ways that define who we are. In his book, Visible Learning, Hattie (2009) identifies five attitudes and beliefs of expert teachers.
Please note that Hattie’s dimensions are aimed at excellent or expert teachers but, I honestly feel that they can be applied to every teacher whether, experienced or just a beginner; hence, I have removed the word “Expert” in some cases:
ATTITUDES AND BELIEFS OF EXCELLENT TEACHERS
1. Teachers identify the most important ways to represent the subject they teach
The research showed that teachers’ subject-matter knowledge did not improve student achievement! However, expert teachers do differ in how they organize and use this content knowledge.
They know how to introduce new content knowledge in a way that integrates it with students’ prior knowledge, they can relate the current lesson to other subject areas, and they can adapt the lessons according to students’ needs.
Because of how they view their approach to teaching, they have a greater stock of strategies to help students and they are better able to predict when students will make errors and respond when they do.
They seek out evidence of who has not learned, who is not making progress, and they problem solve and adapt their teaching in response.
2. Teachers create an optimal classroom climate for learning
The best climate for learning is one in which there is trust. Students often don’t like to make mistakes because they fear a negative response from peers.
Teachers must create classrooms in which errors are welcome and learning is cool.
3. Teachers must monitor learning and provide feedback
Expert teachers know that a typical lesson never goes as planned and they are skilled at monitoring the current status of student understanding.
They are excellent seekers and users of feedback about their teaching – that is, they see student progress as feedback about the effect they are having on learning. To do this, they must regularly gather information to know who is not understanding.
4. Teachers must believe all students can reach the success criteria
We believe that intelligence is changeable rather than fixed. This means that not only do we have a high respect for our students but that we show a passion that all students can succeed!
While passion may be difficult to quantify, students are certainly aware of whether or not their teachers exhibit this passion as defined by seven adjectives starting with ‘C’. These are teachers who Care, Control, Clarify, Challenge, Captivate, Confer and Consolidate.
5. Teachers influence a wide range of student outcomes not solely limited to test scores
Overall, expert teachers exert positive influences on student outcomes and these are not confined to improving test scores.
Expert teachers influence students in a wide range of ways:
- encouraging students to stay in school,
- helping them to develop deep and conceptual understandings,
- teaching them to develop multiple learning strategies,
- encouraging them to take risks in their learning,
- helping them to develop respect for themselves and others, and
- helping them develop into active citizens who participate in our world
There is no doubt about how secondary school teachers require essential skills in their day to day execution of duties. We all have a huge impact on our students’ lives, but to leave a lasting impression and deal with the daily challenges of managing a classroom of 11 to 16 year olds requires a mix of soft and specific skills.