The Nature of Teaching
Teaching Is Multidimensional
One reality of teaching is that many events occur simultaneously and in rapid-fire succession (McMillan, 1997; Sumara, 2002). Events happen quickly in the classroom. Researchers have found that a teacher can be involved in as many as 1,000 to 1,500 interactions with students each day (Billips & Rauth, 1987; Jackson, 1968). Amid these interactions, teachers must make immediate decisions to manage the flow of events and keep the time productive (Doyle, 1986).
Teaching also is multidimensional in that it involves many different domains.We often think of teaching in terms of academic or cognitive domains (emphasizing thinking and learning in subject areas such as English, math, and science). However, teaching also involves social, affective, moral, and health domains, as well as many other aspects of students’ lives. In school, students gain understanding and skills in academic subject areas.
Also, in school they are socialized by and socialize others, learn or do not learn how to control their emotions, gain or do not gain a positive sense of moral values, and do or do not develop good health knowledge and skills. Thus, a teacher’s agenda might consist of not only teaching academic subjects but also promoting socialization and personal development. Teaching involves helping students learn how to be self-reliant and monitor their own work, as well as to work cooperatively and productively with others.
Overlapping events and agendas mean that teachers constantly face dilemmas, not all of which can be resolved. And sometimes a decision that resolves one problem fails to address or even intensifies another problem. For example, teachers often must balance what is good for the individual against what is good for the group. A common challenge in the elementary grades is the need to help one student develop better self-control while at the same time maintaining order and activity in the class as a whole.
Teaching Involves Uncertainty
In the hectic world of the classroom it is difficult to predict what effect a given action by the teacher will have on any particular student. Often teachers must make quick decisions that have uncertain outcomes and hope that they have made the best move for that moment. In this book we will extensively examine the best general principles you can use to instruct and motivate students, assess their learning, and manage theclassroom.
Although these principles will help you make classroom decisions, every situation you encounter will in some way be new. Even the students in the same class change from day to day as the result of additional experiences together and intervening events.
Uncertainty and unpredictability also include the need to teach students in ways that teachers might not have been taught themselves. Current educational reform emphasizes the social contexts of learning, the use of portfolios, and conducting long-term projects (Arends, Winitzky, & Tannenbaum, 1998). Increasingly, the teacher’s role is seen as being more like that of a guide who helps students construct their knowledge and understanding than that of a director who pours knowledge into students’minds and controls their behaviour (Brown, 1997; Brown & Campione, 1996; Hogan & Pressley, 1997). In these respects many prospective teachers are being asked to teach in ways that are unfamiliar to them.
Teaching Involves Social and Ethical Matters
Schools are settings in which considerable socialization takes place. The social and ethical dimensions of teaching include the question of educational equity.When teachers make decisions about routine matters such as which students to call on, how to call on them, what kinds of assignments to make, or how to group students for instruction, they can create advantages for some students and disadvantages for others. In some cases, they might unintentionally and unconsciously perpetuate injustices toward students from particular backgrounds. For example, research suggests that teachers generally give boys more instructional time, more time to answer questions, more hints, and more second attempts than they give girls (AAUW Report, 1998; Cole & Willmingham, 1997; Crawford & Unger, 2000).
Teaching Involves a Diverse Mosaic of Students
Your classroom will be filled with students who differ in many ways. They will have different levels of intellectual ability, different personality profiles, different interests, varying motivations to learn, and different family, economic, religious, and cultural backgrounds.
How can you effectively teach this incredible mosaic of students? You will want to reach all of your students and teach them in individualized ways that effectively meet their learning needs. Students’ vast individual variations and diversity increase the classroom’s complexity and contribute to the challenge of teaching. This diversity is especially apparent in the increasing number of students whose racial, ethnic, linguistic, and cultural backgrounds are quite different from students of Western European heritage, to whom most North American educational systems originally were addressed (Banks & Banks, 1997;Marshall, 1996;Morrison, 2000).
Chapter 1 Educational Psychology: A Tool for Effective Teaching