The Shift from a Focus on Teaching to a Focus on Learning

It is obvious that many teachers (in Romania and other countries) are concerned with the teaching curriculum and they are tributaries to traditional teaching methods. However, students are some passive gainers, they are not required to think or to call into question what they are offered. They are simply asked to listen and write, without getting involved in the content of the subject taught.

Perhaps, in such teachers’ opinion, knowledge is one thing that is transmitted and learned, understanding occurs later, and clarity of exposition accompanied by rewards for patient reception, are essential requirements of a quality teaching. However, a passive student just receives teaching, he is not required to participate in the learning process.
The shift to a more active methodology, student-centered, involves the student in the learning process and teaches him learning skills and the basic work skills with others and problem solving. Student-centered methods involve the individual in evaluating the effectiveness of his learning and sets goals for future development. The benefits of student-centered methods helps prepare the individual for both a smoother transition to work and to lifelong learning.

How do we learn actively?

There is now a consensus among researchers regarding learning and the cerebral cortex, according to which we do not learn whether we are passive receivers and then to remember what we were taught.

Learning means rather the building of our own meanings. It actually involves creating connections between neurons. We invent our own concepts and ideas about what we already know. When we learn something, our brain undergoes a physical change. When it works wrong, we perceive most acutely the creative process of creating meanings. It is about, for example, the funny mistakes children make or those mistakes (errors) made by students in an exam and which teachers make fun of.

These genuine mistakes show how „the creation of meaning” works in practice. If students merely remember what they were told, they would not get to do such mistakes, but simply would remember or not. Conceptual errors show that we build our own views in our minds and we do not simply remember the views of the others.

Not only children and students learn in this constructivist way. If more educated adults watch the same movie or read the same novel and are then they are asked to describe it, they will expose some very different concepts. They will not only learn to disagree about how good the movie or novel was. They will interpret the characters’ motivations and the script’s meanings in very different ways. If adults are asked questions on the meaning of concepts such as „democracy” and „socialism”, very different concepts will arise again. If adults are exposed to the same lesson, they will have had very different concepts at the end of it. It is therefore important to use teaching methods that allow the learner and the teacher to detect misconceptions and then to correct them.

”Student-centered learning” can be an example of good practice because during teaching English I have noticed that students are attracted to teamwork. After I had administrated the questionnaire for identifying the learning styles, lesson materials were developed according to the indentified learning styles. Student-centered learning is effective, although most teachers are reluctant to such methods. It is necessary to teach certain skills and abilities and must not impose a particular style of learning.

Students are attracted to teamwork. Cooperating with them, they are open to new challenges, work harder, work with the teacher more effectively, and the results are better. Even since their first English class in high school, I try to make my students aware of the importance of studying a foreign language, English in particular. English is a school subject that attracts more students, and if the methods used in the classroom are „to their liking”, students will be more attracted to what English means. It is important to know the learning style of each student so that the methods used in the classroom to be effective. I think the educational process, and primarily teaching/learning process should track the progress of our students.

Promoting interactive learning through the individual learning style even in high school leads to school improvement. Monitoring cooperation within groups formed at the beginning, I noticed that some students had the tendency to work individually, but after several lessons using interactive methods and different activities related to their learning styles, the students began to cooperate better and better with a definite purpose, namely to discover and share as much knowledge as possible. To reach the perfection of the group, each student presented individual findings in the group, learnt from each other and the outcome of their investigation was communicated to the other groups by their leaders. They received different roles within the group according to their intellectual and psychological traits. Therefore, using interactive methods allowed me to experiment, to explore new options to enhance the educational efficiency of the school through the student’s direct involvement, mobilization or cognitive effort. True learning allows the transfer of acquisitions in new contexts. Teamwork has offered students the opportunity to share opinions, experiences, ideas, personal strategies, information and problem-solving time was often short. Individualization, customization and valorization of each student give the teacher the opportunity to know each student’s ability, to obtain the cognitive and attitudinal changes: encouraging individual or teamwork there are many advantages of using interactive methods based on learning style and I recommend them to be used more often.

All in all, interactive methods and the activities according to the students’ learning style trigger the request mechanisms of thinking, intelligence, imagination and creativity. They are also means which form and develop the necessary skills and abilities of the students and develop their character and personality. Learning style can evolve through practice, based on experience. Building a powerful learning style, suitable to the student’s features is, on the one hand, one of the basic conditions for the success and school performance, and on the other hand, is the main foundation of self-education.  One of our duties as teachers is to develop ourselves continuously, to better ourselves, to enter the learners’ world, to understand them and not to remain passive if we manage to do it. I strongly believe in education reform, in the necessity of teaching learning methodology, in the quest of new methods, techniques and procedures to streamline educational activities through the direct involvement of the learner, methods requiring mechanisms of thinking, intelligence, imagination and creativity.

BIBLIOGRAPHY
1. Bocoş, M. (2002). Instruire interactivă. Repere pentru reflecţie şi acţiune, Editura Presa Universitară Clujeană, Cluj- Napoca
2. Bowie, A. (1998). Adolescent Self Perception of Learning Styles: A Qualitative Study Master’s  Thesis, Antioch University, Seattle
3. Cerghit, I.(2008), Sisteme de instruire alternative şi complementare. Structuri, stiluri şi strategii. Editura Polirom, Iaşi
4. Skehan, P. (1998). A Cognitive Approach to Language Learning, Oxford University Press

 

prof. Minerva Ignat

Profil iTeach: iteach.ro/profesor/minerva.ignat

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