The teaching profession demands numerous skill sets and qualities just like any other demanding profession. One of the primary requirements expected of teachers is to provide the students with learning and teaching environments that are conducive, worthwhile and effective. This article explores the different observable and necessary qualities depicting a learning environment where the teaching is carried out in an effective manner. The burden of providing effective teaching in a learning environment relies mainly on the teachers’ ability and certain skills which shall be discussed in this paper.

A common misconception among in the teaching profession is that having many years experience in teaching makes one an effective educator. However, this is not true since the teaching dynamics are constantly changing everyday and they are different for every student. It is therefore imperative for teachers to constantly re-examine the techniques deployed when teaching in order to ensure that they do so effectively. This paper explores these qualities that determine whether the teaching is effective enough and useful to the learners.

Research on the topic of effective teaching conducted by Jacobsen, Eggen and Kauchak, (2002) came up with a number of prerequisite characteristic qualities for effective teaching. The study showed that effective teachers tend to: have very well managed classrooms; give students the opportunity to learn fully; maintain a clear focus on academics; have high expectations of their students’ capabilities; show enthusiasm for teaching; formulate strategies to keep students interested, motivated and productive; use clear and concise explanation and presentation methods for new materials; give instructions according to specific student needs and abilities.

The idea behind the research is that the most important facilitating factor for effective teaching is the teacher. As such, effective teaching relies on the type of attitude/enthusiasm the teacher embraces towards teaching and toward the students, the scope of knowledge and understanding of the particular discipline the teacher is involved in and the level of responsibility the teacher is willing to take to ensure that the students’ educational needs are sufficiently catered for.

In his address to the reason behind how children fail in school, John Holt (1964) concludes that most schools failed to recognize and adequately address the quality of education in schools. He also cites the monotonous repetitive nature of activities in the school systems; limited provision of the necessary knowledge required by the students and most importantly, failure of adequate understanding of subjects by teachers. Philip Gurney (2007, 91) echoes this sentiments and argues to achieve good learning environments, schools must focus on creating a system based on the teachers abilities and input.

These thoughts can translated to mean that it is necessary to create a classroom structure that nurtures the desire in students to think creatively and have an inquisitive attitude towards learning and exploring new ideas effectively. To achieve this, the classroom needs to be a reflection of the teachers’ knowledge, degree of enthusiasm and willingness to be responsible for coming up with such an environment in the learning institution. Effective teachers are ready to challenge any inhibiting factors and prejudices based on traditional education system, which still has plenty of supporters, despite its numerous weak points and inadequacies in addressing education.

Teachers that adopt this kind of mindset are likely to become more successful in passing on information to students in a classroom. Effective and enthusiastic teachers tend take a more participative and active role while teaching. Day (1999) says that ‘teaching is more than a craft; it is an educational science and a pedagogical art.’ In justification of this ideology where participative and active teaching characterizes effective teaching, Gurney further states that:

“In taking on the reflective role, teachers can enjoy the process of teaching by sharing their knowledge through the creation of a reflective classroom. In such an environment the knowledge is shared; students and teachers all become learners. (2007, p.91)

Effective teaching is characterized by educators who are ready and willing to dispense whatever knowledge they have to their students. When teachers engage their passion and enthusiasm on the subject they are addressing, it changes the educational dynamics and turns the teaching process into an effective and worthwhile undertaking.

The second factor that characterizes effective teaching practices is application of student assessment activities which provide the students with an opportunity to learn through hand-on experience. This is opposed to assessment based purely on theoretical applications. Westwood argues that often most teaching styles applied are inclined on directly transmitting information from textbooks, lectures and the internet, to students (2004 p.81). In relation to this, Driscoll (2000, p. 376) argues that, “Learners are not empty vessels waiting to be filled, but rather active organisms seeking meaning”. Learners need to be able to apply what they are taught in theory to practical situations. Effective teaching provides the learners with the opportunity to do this, while at the same time it allows the teachers to assess the degree to which the students have grasped the concepts they learn.

In essence, an effective teaching and learning environment strives to alter the mindsets of students on the issue of assessment. In most learning environments, the prospect of taking tests and exams is viewed by students as the main reason why they study, in other words, they study to take exams instead of studying so as to acquire knowledge and understanding of the topic they are focusing on. Effective teaching seeks to make students embrace, understand and view the assessment activities as part of the learning process, and not the reason for learning.

Cameron (2002) further reiterates the idea of assessment activities structured to provide a learning experience to the students. He cites activities such as co-operative learning, peer tutoring, case study projects and collaborative reasoning in problem solving through group projects as an example of assessment activities that provide learners with opportunities to experience the ‘real thing’.

Stronge (2007) insists that effective teachers have the ability to discern how each of their students in their class is doing academically. He adds that the teachers acquire this information by employing a variety of both formal and informal monitoring measures. They can then act on this information to assist the student in that particular area of weakness. He also adds that effective assessment activities improve the student’s self-awareness of their own weaknesses. He says:

“Monitoring of student progress and potential need not be solely the responsibility of the teacher; indeed, an effective teacher facilitates students’ understanding of how to assess their own performance, that is, assists them in meta-cognition” (2007, p. 7).

This type of assessment activities ultimately allow students to grow academically to the point where they can assess and evaluate their personal progress and understanding of a topic.

Another key element of effective teaching is that it involves and incorporates proper classroom management and organization as well as activities that encourage learning through student participation. Also inclusive in this factor is effective interaction between teachers and students. Stronge (2007) argues that a quick glance at a classroom can inform the viewer on how organized the particular teacher is. Classroom organization and management plays an important role in determining whether the environment is conducive enough for the teaching to be termed as effective.

Emmer and Stough also reinforce the importance of having a classroom that is well organized and managed. They argue that it is critical for teachers to be able to manage and organize their classrooms effectively since achievement of positive academic results depends on this factor. Despite this argument, they reiterate that while effective learning is not guaranteed by proper management and organization alone, its achievement is assisted by the application of good managerial and organizational skills of effective teachers (2002, p. 105). In this statement, the two authors stipulate the importance and role of an organized and well managed classroom to the learners.

Apart from proper management and organization of classrooms, effective teaching calls for teachers to examine and determine specific activities and techniques which help keep the students actively participating in the classroom. Stipek (2007) argues that effective teaching practices dictate that teachers should engage the students in learning activities which motivate the students and improve their confidence. He explains that in order for a classroom to be considered effective, it should allow learner the opportunity to pursue their education in an environment where success is measured by how much knowledge they have acquired, rather than how many questions they are able to answer correctly during assessments. Effective teaching has the effect of motivating learners by making them in charge of their own learning experiences.

The statement raises a rather obvious point. However, the needs of each particular classroom are unique and specific to the classroom. An effective teacher realizes this fact and adapts accordingly to the needs of the current class at hand. This is an important factor to consider because what might have worked for a previous classroom may not necessarily be adequate to fulfill the needs of another classroom.

Effective teaching is also characterized by concise and clear presentation of information by the teacher to the students and vice versa. Wragg and Brown (1993, p.3) define the process of explaining as “giving understanding to another”. They also add that confusion in learners, especially children, arises from lack of precise and clear interpretation and clarity in explanations given by teachers.

Westwood further reiterates the value and necessity for clarity in presentation and explanations from teachers to students. He says that learning problems are easily created in children as a result of poor explanations. He raises the importance of clarity in presentation and explanation, above anything else (2007, p. 83). The aspect of clarity is of great consequence to the process of effective learning. Teachers need the ability to express themselves in proper language for their teaching methods to be termed as ‘effective.’ Teachers can also get assistance from students in determining how effective and clearly they express themselves by having students evaluate their performance using a number of methods, for example questionnaires. This will help them work on their problematic areas and ensure clarity in their teaching and explanations.

Bush and Kincer (1993) found out, after a study on expert teachers whose students repeatedly obtained good results that these successful teachers always they provided their students with; adequate and efficient information on initial presentations; extremely clear and precise directives; freedom of explaining different topics in a variety of ways; and opportunities to carry out further revision on their presentations.

Good and Brophy (2003) add that explanation should be an exchange process between the teacher and students for effective teaching to take place. They describe a good explanation as one that allows the students to provide feedback on whether they are comfortable enough with the explanation they have received or if they require further clarification. Effective teaching facilitates this type of exchange, in the spirit of ensuring nothing gets lost in translation. Good and Brophy (2003) also add that at times, effective teaching involves student to student explanations are sufficient. This is mainly because peers may be able to explain a situation on the same level rather than teachers who at times delve into more complicated explanations due to their advanced understanding of the problematic area.

In conclusion, effective learning provides a leaning environment where the teachers fully grasp and strive to attend to personal needs of every student in their classroom. It provides the students with an opportunity to participate and learn through experiencing situations. Effective learning also encourages mutual respect and interaction between teachers and students in an effort to stimulate learning and establish a closer working relationship between the two parties.


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