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Majlis Penutupan Persidangan

Effective Teaching

Effective Teaching

A few suggestions on how to teach effectively. Practice them until they become second nature. You 'll see the result—for you and for your students. 

·  Know what you're talking about. Survey after survey shows this to be the most important factor in students' evaluation of their instructor's teaching. Students can easily spot an unprepared instructor. Because we may be a little rusty or less familiar with concepts the first few times we teach a new course, we should do a lot more homework than our students.

·  Teach and lead by example. Do we want curiosity in the classroom? Do we want our students to possess honesty, dedication, and a passion for ideas? Then we have to embody those traits. We must demonstrate that acquiring knowledge has some payoff—that we are improved by it, that we find it intellectually satisfying, that we become more professional. Otherwise, why should our students bother to learn it?

·  Respect your students. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "The secret of education lies in respecting the pupil." An important part of respecting students is encouraging them to ask questions and express opinions. Many queries won't be suitable topics for a dissertation, but if students are asking questions, at least they are thinking. Sometimes teachers greet questions with a brusque, "You should already know that—I'm not going to bother to answer," and then bewail the fact that their students never ask questions!
If, instead, a student receives a civil answer to a question, then others may muster the courage to ask about something else. Before you know it, there may be a very productive discussion going. Not about what you had planned to present, maybe, but about what students are having trouble with or are curious about.

·  Motivate your students. Learning is far more efficient if the learner is motivated and energized to put forth the effort necessary to learn a task. Incorporate as many motivating forces into your courses as you can.
Appeal to students' curiosity, or to their desire to succeed. Make connections wherever possible to things that interest them. Hold students' interest by using material peppered with examples and variety, which has more inherent appeal and gets more response than material that is always the same, always abstract. Be a good model of a practicing professional by showing enthusiasm for your field—how else can you expect your students to be excited about what they're learning?
Limit the use of fear techniques to motivate students. They only work in the short term, and the long-term effects—fear of failure, fear of poor grades, fear of ridicule—are troublesome.

·  Construct a set of instructional objectives for each of your courses. These should be brief, unambiguous statements that define what the learner should be able to do after completing the course. For example, an objective in a thermodynamics course might be: "Be able to use the first law of thermodynamics to solve a variety of problems, including steady- and unsteady-state processes." This statement is intentionally nonspecific; the problems could range from simple to very complex.
Composing a set of good objectives for an entire course is not a trivial task, but when you've done it, you know what your course is about and what it is supposed to accomplish. It becomes easier to construct exams that measure achievement of the objectives. You don't waste time talking about irrelevant material in class. You can select class activities, readings, and homework assignments that are more focused on helping students achieve the objectives—if an activity doesn't further the objectives, why have the students do it? Objectives even help in selecting a suitable text—the one that best illuminates what you want students to learn or be able to do.

·  Teach students problem-solving skills. You don't teach these skills by showing how you solve advanced problems. You do it by giving students a problem and then providing immediate feedback about how they did. Then you give them another one, and another, and let them practice the underlying strategies. Students know a lot, but most don't know how to apply their knowledge to solve problems different from those they have seen before.

·  Tell and show. Much of what we teach is abstract. We often apply fairly sophisticated mathematics to derive relationships, build concepts slowly, and reinforce all this with liberal applications of homework. Too often, students jump through all these hoops without really understanding the fundamental phenomena being discussed.
Combat this by using a variety of methods that make the material more concrete. Use physical analogies, do demonstrations in class, relate concepts to real-world situations, encourage teamwork—-try anything that can knock on a new door in students' minds.

·  Read up on learning styles. There are several recognized learning style models, including the psychologically-based Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, the information gathering- and processing-focused Kolb Learning Style Model, the task-centered Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument, and the Felder-Silverman Learning Style model, which combines elements of the Kolb and Myers-Briggs models.
Learning about the ways in which people learn is the first step toward eliminating this mismatch between students' learning styles and your teaching style.

·  Construct valid tests. By that, I mean tests that accurately measure what you think you're measuring. Your course objectives are enormously valuable here—they should tell you what to test students on.

              In summary, think of your classroom as your teaching laboratory. A few experiments may be just what you need to get through to your students, many of whom just need some successes, the feeling that some of us care, or enough "Aha!" reactions to keep them going.


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