When we observe teaching from the perspective of research, principles of teaching and learning, psychological factors, we consider teaching a science. Teachers, as scientists, should be familiar with all of the above, should have knowledge of content and the skills to apply this knowledge in the classroom. Nevertheless, they should also be creative (which implies producing original ideas, and, probably, having an artistic bent). When we focus on teacher’s creativity and talent, we consider teaching an art.
Analysing the role of creativity in the teaching-learning process, Marisa Constantinides asserts that “[…] teaching is not an exclusively creative process but neither is it merely a set of repeated action sequences based on blueprints. It is based on knowledge, professional understanding, technical know-how and the personal qualities of the teacher.” (Maley, A; Peachey, N;2015)
Creative teachers are able to respond to the unpredictable and the unexpected, they come up with good solutions quickly when problems arise. They are flexible and original and highly productive. Without a doubt, the ideal teacher is a good scientist and, also, an artist. He/She is able to put materials to new use in effective and stimulating ways, plans lessons as performance events (with rhythm and flow), creates a positive learning atmosphere, and above all, “thinks outside the box”.
The ideal teacher develops a good relationship with his students (rapport). According to Scrivener, the following features stand at the base of rapport: showing respect; really listening to students; being fair; having a good sense of humour; giving clear, positive feedback; inspiring confidence; being authentic; being patient; empathizing with students’ problems; trusting people; being non-judgemental; being well-organised; being honest; being approachable; being enthusiastic and inspiring enthusiasm; being authoritative without being distant. If they are not already inborn, these features can be studied and improved on.
The ideal teacher is also a reflective teacher, always looking to improve his practice (thus, being able to offer more to learners and to enrich his own life).
There are several methods in which we can reflect upon our teaching. We will “reflect” upon them, considering the advantages and disadvantages of each method:
- Formal observations (they have an evaluative function, especially for newly employed teachers): advantages – useful feedback coming from the observer; finding out positives about their teaching they did not know about before; disadvantages – the teacher is under pressure to “perform”; he/she puts on a model lesson that is nothing like the usual classes.
- Peer observations (both teachers can reflect on their teaching): advantages – teachers get to share lesson ideas and inspire each other; they look at their own teaching from a different angle; disadvantages – it is difficult to find time to do this; teachers might worry about being judged by a colleague. Teachers should point out the strengths, too, not just the weaknesses.
- Talking to colleagues (teachers share teaching experiences; this helps them make sense of what happens in the classroom): advantages – talking about their experiences forces them to formulate thoughts and think through what has happened; gaining solidarity from colleagues can be a good impetus for them to reflect on their practice; disadvantages – colleagues might not fully understand the context to provide an informed opinion or to give useful advice; some colleagues might be cautious about being honest and not provide constructive feedback.
- Student feedback (invaluable in facilitating reflection): advantages – teachers find out what really matters to students; they are forced to think about their beliefs; disadvantages – teachers see negative comments as a personal attack; students might not understand the principles behind what the teachers do.
- A diary (keeping a teaching diary, with details after every lesson): advantages – it provides a tangible basis to work from and allows teachers to see the progress made; disadvantages – it is time-consuming; it relies entirely on the teachers’ memory and point of view.
- Recordings (using a digital camera, a smart phone, taking photos of board work): advantages – they enable the teacher to notice things they or their students did; the information is accurate; disadvantages – teachers might find watching and listening to themselves cringe-worthy; students might find a recording in class intrusive and become self-conscious of their own language use. Teachers have to ask students for permission to record for self-developmental purposes.
The next step after thinking about our practice is to formulate a feasible action plan to improve our chosen area. This way we move forward, we keep learning, which translates into becoming better today than we were yesterday, and better tomorrow than we are today.
Maley, A.; Peachey, N. (2015): Creativity in the English Language Classroom, London, British Council, p.115.
Scrivener, J. (2005): Learning Teaching. A Guidebook for English Language Teachers, Second Edition, London, Macmillan, p.23.