IMPROVING TEACHER QUALITY: 5 ASSUMPTIONS WHY TEACHERS SHOULD HAVE A CRITICAL SCRUTINY AT THEIR DECIS
Improving English language skills among learners is a demanding task because of the variations in culture, background and learning styles. This strenuous responsibility is further challenged by the low proficiency level of some learners (Mathew, 2012). In teaching English as a second language, teachers have to make numerous decisions. Taking into account of certain factors, teachers have to determine many crucial things such as the content of the lessons, materials to use, level of questions to pose to the learners, learning approach to be adopted, ICT to use, the 21st century learning strategy to be incorporated and ways to assess their progress.
To me, all teachers, no matter how senior they are, still have to examine the decisions they have been making in their ESL classrooms. Ross et. Al (1993: 9-15) highlight in their book “Reflective Teaching for Students Empowerment” five assumptions about teaching and teachers’ roles in classrooms.
“What happens in Teachers’ classrooms is influenced by what they think” – Teachers make decisions in line with their thinking and belief. Some of the beliefs could be wrong and misleading. Without reflection, teachers will not be able to examine the beliefs that shape their decisions and may not bother to reflect on the efficacy of their instructional decisions.
“Tacit, but invalid beliefs can hamper teachers’ effectiveness in the classroom” – Many beliefs about teaching and learning held by teachers are tacit and intuitive; that is unexamined. Teachers, even the experienced ones sometimes act based on those unexamined beliefs.
“There are no fixed answers to the problems of teaching and learning” – Teachers have to face and deal with numerous teaching dilemmas and puzzles. The decisions teachers make are not applicable in other situations all the time.
“Research does not have all the answers” – We have to bear in mind that research only furnishes us with information and ideas but does not provide answers or solutions to all the teaching problems. In making sound judgment about the research findings, teachers themselves have to be inquirers.
“Teaching requires commitment to professional development and growth” – “No teacher education programme, no matter how thorough, can prepare teachers for all the situations they will encounter” (Ross et al., 1993:15). So, constant self-renewal is a requirement if teachers wish to render the best service to their students.
According to Day (1999:218) teachers normally develop routine actions which they discover work in their classes and many of the decisions made by them are normally intuitive and unexamined (could be dangerous). Perhaps, intuition can develop one’s teaching but at the same time it can also decrease a teacher’s quality because that intuition is simply “a routine unconscious response to a new situation”.
Reflective practices involve openness that requires ESL teachers to challenge their own assumptions and continue to improve skills needed for effective classroom instruction (Mathew, 2012). How can teachers challenge their assumptions and beliefs about teaching ESL? Well, it is none other than engaging themselves in professional reflective teaching. Positively, teachers who reflect critically on their teaching practice are said to be thoughtful and more desirable than the thoughtless teachers, who simply teach according to “tradition, authority and circumstances” (Zeichner and Tabachnick, 1991:2).
[Note: Reflection here does not mean writing something like this at the end of the lesson; "22/24 students could answer the comprehension questions correctly. Two more students were guided to find the correct answers." It is more than that. There are stages / cycles. Please read the third posting of January 2018 for a clearer picture of the reflective teaching cycles]
Day, C. (1999). Researching Teaching through Reflective Practice. In
Loughran, J. (Ed) Researching Teaching Methodologies and Practices for
Understanding Pedagogy. London: The Falmer Press
Mathew, N.G. (2012). Reflective Classroom Practice for Effective Classroom
Instruction. International Education Studies, Vol. 5, No. 3, 2012.
Ross, D.D., Bondy, E. and Kyle, D.W. (1993). Reflective Teaching for
Students Empowerment. New York: MacMillan Publishing Company
Zeichner, K.M. and Tabachnick, B.R. (Eds) (1991). Issues and Practices in
Inquiry-Oriented Teacher Education. London: The Falmer Press