Sunday, February 28th, 2010
Posted with permission from author, Edward Roy Krishnan, PhD to advocate for engaging teaching methods and inspiring students to love learning
Are you tired of picking through youtube and other video sharing sites to find quality films to use in a classroom setting? Educationalvideos.com is a brand new site that features over one thousand short educational films covering a variety of interesting topics including the environment, art, science, history and more. Teaching your students about Photosynthesis? Watch the Photosynthesis Song!
The videos are each handpicked by our team in order to find the best films in terms of content, length and entertainment value. Each video is organized by its subject matter and categorized, making it easy to find quality films fast.
Be sure to also check out the recently launched “How-To” category, which features fun, instructional videos that teach various skills including How to Levitate.
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Sunday, February 28th, 2010
One may express amusement at the thought of the existence of a true correlation between physical appearance and/or demeanor and students’ academic achievement. While it lacks sufficient empirical evidence, the claim may hold some truth. Good looking students do perform better at school, and conversely, students who under-perform are often untidy and “poorly maintained.”
The connection between physical appearance and/or demeanor and academic achievement is indirect, in that there are other variables at work to make the former possible. Being humans, teachers are naturally inclined to be attracted to good looking students. This attraction results in increased attention, frequent constructive feedback and role/power sharing by the teacher. Consequently, these positive behaviors increase a student’s motivation to learn and achieve.
Obviously, this is not the situation we want to have in schools. Every student, whether “attractive” or not, has the right to having undivided attention, constructive feedback and opportunities for role/power sharing from the teacher. Most students under-perform because one or more of the abovementioned elements is missing in the learning process. It is a teacher’s primary duty to provide such an experience to students. Making it happen for all students is a challenge that needs to be addressed.
Bias and favoritism
Despite the fact that humans naturally succumb to personal biases resulting primarily from interpersonal attraction, teachers need to be conscious about their responses to every child. Responding to people based on “attraction-at-first-sight” may work for others but should not be entertained in a learning environment. When a teacher does not deliberately shun such an experience, he or she invariably engages in favoritism, which may manifest itself through various forms of discrimination that arise from stereotypical thinking and prejudiced feeling toward students.
Favoritism is a quality that shatters the trust students have in their mentor. Learning is severely affected when there is no or lack of trusting relationship between students and teacher.
Overcoming natural tendencies
One simple way to work against the attraction-at-first-sight effect is to get to know students by spending more time with each one of them (within instruction and school time). This works because it is not just a matter of mental choice but involves concrete actions toward removing whatever stereotype or prejudice a teacher may hold toward a student or a group of students. All of us are familiar with the experience of not liking someone at first sight; however, as time passes and we get to know that person, we suddenly realize that our pre-conceptions based on our attraction-at-first-sight instinct were wrong. The same could be applied with students. Research in social psychology have established that familiarity with people facilitates and enhances interpersonal attraction in a significant way.
But where does a teacher find time to get to know more about each student when they are handling twenty to thirty students at one go?
The 2×4 technique
The 2×4 strategy allows a teacher to interact with a pre-selected student for two minutes, for four consecutive weeks. This is ideally done just before the class begins or ends. Each day of the week could be dedicated to one child. The teacher could cover a total of five students in each 4-week slot, and then move on to the next set of five students. The teacher should use his or her judgment and ethical guidelines to choose appropriate subjects to talk about, giving emphasis to getting to know students better.
The 2×4 exercise would allow the teacher to check for and clear misconceptions about students, particularly the ones the teacher was not keen on knowing in the first place because of the attraction-at-first-sight effect. More importantly, this strategy allows both the parties to identify similarities and celebrate the same to become a closely knit learning organization.
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Tuesday, February 9th, 2010
Surveys done by educational researchers in the field of social-emotional well-being indicate that students want to succeed at school. They want to avoid bad company, attend and be on time to all classes, have nothing to do with drugs, despise delinquent behaviors, make teachers and parents proud of their accomplishments and respect the elders. Most importantly, every student surveyed expressed a genuine desire to get good grades.
These are what they said they want. However, the picture we see in schools is different. Why? Research further indicate that most students get distracted from their inner conviction of what they should and should not do at school because of how they are treated.
Students who do not find learning meaningful will eventually be put off by schooling and start engaging in unhealthy behaviors. They do this to justify the act of being in school by force. To reduce the effect of cognitive dissonance (a phenomenon when one behaves contrary to what he/she thinks and feels, causing intense disturbance in thinking and behavior), they convince themselves that if they don’t go to school to study, they would do so for some other reasons. Most often, the reasons are counterproductive, and sometimes, damaging to life and future.
This is why teachers need to take their jobs seriously. Teaching is not merely passing down information. It is passing down information to humans who yearn to become better and possibly the best. Every time I come across an actor being recognized as the “chosen one” by a “wise person” (in movies), I think of teachers having to do the same with each and every child, on a daily basis.
Each student is chosen to do something important in life. Teachers need to look beyond lesson delivery, to the immense possibilities and potential of every child. Lessons taught from this point of view will not just inform students, but inspire them to continue nurturing their quest for knowledge and practical wisdom.
Belief affects practice
Most teachers do not think this way. Many are comfortable continuing in their belief that only a few are destined to greatness; others will have to be satisfied with mediocre, if not shoddier future. As long as teachers view students this way, schools will continue producing ill-adjusted individuals who are utterly confused about life and everything they hold dear. A major chunk of student populations in all schools around the world experience dissatisfaction and hate learning on the grounds of emotional conflicts and frustrations.
In other words, students fail not because they lack the intelligence, but because they choose to rebel against a system that do not cater to their emotional as well as cognitive needs. Obviously, when a teacher thinks that only a few would eventually succeed, he/she would invest most of his/her energy and time on these students – and knowingly or unknowingly neglect the rest. If students are not cognitively challenged, they become bored, and this affects their emotional senses – and soon, they are spiraling downward at the speed no one could imagine.
Change we need
If we continue this way, we would have a world that is inhabited by predominantly insensitive, irresponsible, and selfish individuals, and a handful of brilliant individuals who will constantly try to protect themselves from the former. This is not the aim of education. Education is supposed to make everyone productive and happy. It is supposed to help us celebrate shared values and appreciate others.
The way we teach today determines the kind of world we would have in the future. Teachers do not teach for students to pass tests, but for them to become better humans. As the famous 20th century educator Dr. Haim Gnott puts it, “Fish swim, birds fly, and people feel,” – our primary duty then, is to teach with heart.
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