Effective teaching is about taking into consideration four key factors that influence the learning process: teachers, learners, tasks and contexts. So, effective teaching is achieved by creating a relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere in class environment, retaining control in the classroom, presenting work in an interesting and motivating way, providing conditions so pupils understand the work, making clear what pupils have to do and achieve, judging what one can expect from a pupil, helping pupils with difficulties, encouraging pupils to trust their own abilities, developing personal, mature relationships with children, demonstrating personal talents or knowledge in the field.
The secret of effective teaching and subsequently of effective learning lies basically in the nature of social interactions between two or more people with different levels of skills and knowledge, and here I refer to teachers and students.
Vygotsky, a Russian psychologist coined the term of the zone of proximal development (ZPD), which says that if we, the teachers, want to develop our students’ capacities, we should design appropriate tasks for them. By appropriate I mean that these tasks should be in the zone of proximal development of the students in case. Otherwise, if the tasks are too difficult for their mental stage of development we will inhibit them, not develop them.
Cognitive approaches emphasize the importance of the learner and of what he brings to any learning situation as an active meaning-maker and problem-solver.
Williams and Burden (1997:47) discriminate between nine key factors of effective teaching:
- • clarity of presentation;
• teacher’s enthusiasm;
• variety of activities during lessons;
• achievement oriented behaviour in classroom;
• stimulation of students’ ideas;
• (lack of) criticism;
• use of structuring comments at the beginning and during lessons;
• modulating students’ answers.
But the essence of effective teaching relates to the meaning of a certain sequence of information. That is how effective teaching and learning becomes understanding how meaning becomes attributed. Effective teaching must deal with conducting conversations that elaborate, relate and extend personal meaning. For example Saint Augustine says that there is an interior master within each of us who guides our understanding of the world. For those who dedicate their lives to Christ and Christianity, the interior master should be Jesus Christ himself.
If teachers want to subject themselves to change, to the challenge of being creative in their own classroom behaviour, and I say behaviour because I think creativity is a way of behaving differently in a given context, it is worth thinking of a method as the blending of many ingredients, which gives us the formula of the teacher as a cook or a chemist.
How much novelty/creativity is there in language teaching?
In teaching a second language a teacher has a set of fixed methods at his disposal. If the teacher whom we talk about knows how to mix the methods in such a way that the matter that he/she teaches is vivid and attractive to kids we may consider him/her creative. This is a case of adaptive creativity. The students’ creativity may be stirred by this kind of teachers so that we might come to spontaneous creativity on the part of the children, which is a more pure and lax form of creativity.
Another way in which teachers could prove their abilities of being creative is to use the so-called conservative creativity method. In fact, this is not a method. It is moreover a strategy by which teachers vary the context of an exercise by changing only one aspect in the development of the task. This could be also called a componential approach to change. In using this strategy the teacher can be creative without losing the overall structure of his materials and method. Giving privilege to the creative approach makes the teacher adapt to his/her students’ needs, and if the former does not impose a limit to this creativity, this will probably create a disorganized atmosphere in the class.
On the other hand, creative teaching means inductive teaching. This means that however intrinsically interesting the ideas presented by the teacher may be, they will only appear interesting to the students if they are allowed to discover them by themselves. This is especially true, when what is taught is reading, which is always a process of discovery, a creation of meaning by the reader, in collaboration with the author. If this creative dimension is removed, if we are told the meaning of what we read before we read it, then we just scan the words and we won’t be able to see them as communication. We must give our students not the story of the story, but the direct access to the printed text.
Amabile, Teresa M. 1989 Growing Up Creative – Nurturing a Lifetime of Creativity, Buffalo New York, C.E.F.Press
Csikszentmihalyi, M 1996 Creativity, New York, Harper Collins
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Harmer, Jeremy 1991 The Practice of English Language Teaching, Longman Group UK Ltd., London
Kim, Steven H 1990 Essence of creativity, Oxford University Press
Lindstromberg, Seth 1990 The Recipe Book – Practical Ideas for the Language Classroom, Longman Group UK,Ltd.
McGraw-Hill 1959 Dictionary of Education, New York, Toronto, London, Book company Inc.,
Roşca, Al. 1981 Creativitatea generală şi specifică, Bucureşti, EA