Your Learning Theory versus your Teaching Practice
The art of teaching involves having creativity and showing personal traits in the professional practice. Society has changed in many ways so teachers nowadays need to adapt their methodology to new challenges in their classes.
As an English as a Second Language Teacher in University level, I prefer to give opportunities to my students to let them show their true colors in the classroom. Each of them is a different world, therefore I consider that the Constructivism Approach, which is based on the fact that knowledge is not uniform and that it varies on each individual, is the most effective.
It is true that life experience teaches us in different ways, but it is also true that information is interpreted in abstract ways. I have learned that students can develop certain skills according to their interests, background and prior knowledge. If a student is able to socialize and work with a classmate (or classmates) that has the same interests and similar positive behavior, his learning experience will be successful. They can exchange information and create their own learning environment according to their needs. The teacher becomes a facilitator who provides the resources his students need and shows them a way to use them efficiently.
Peer interaction always sounds fun and can mean a great tool for enhancing certain procedures in class. The Constructivist view of activity involves physical performance, for example, research projects in groups, role plays, conversation practice and multimedia presentations. When we apply the student-centred theory there are many interesting elements included: we focus on the student, his choices, his doing for learning, and also the shift on student – teacher relationship. It also allows personal learning rather than unhealthy competition.
On the other side, it is important to mention that sometimes it may be difficult to implement such approach, especially in South American culture. In some cases it is because teaching resources are not always available, in other cases it may be because of authorities disagreements with the teaching staff about certain policies, or may be because students do not have the same cultural beliefs or family values.
In my classes, I have always found students that prefer individual work. I have lived that experience as a teacher, but also as a student, so I understand how difficult it can be. As a student, I have always preferred to be an individual learner and do my own questioning and decisions. Peer work has not been a good idea for my learning process because I realized the way some group members interact, most of the times, the most responsible student ends up doing all the work, nobody else produces anything at all, one or two members work and the rest do not have a clue of what is being done. Sometimes you are assigned to be in a group where you are not welcomed and your participation is ignored. It is disappointing trying to work that way.
As a teacher, I apply the Constructivist approach methodology because my concern is focusing on students who LIKE and WANT to learn in groups, therefore whenever I ask them to start an activity that requires group work, I always identify those exceptions, that are students who do not like to be assigned to groups and prefer individual work. I show respect to their way of learning and motivate them to get excellent results in the way they are good at.
At the end, groups’ grades always reflect the best students’ effort but at the same time these students have taught the others some important skills for learning. On the other hand, it is really rewarding to see a student who has applied his own way of learning achieving excellent results at his own pace.
Through the years I have realized that Creative Teaching is an endless process of adaptation to social issues. There is no doubt that it would be perfect to have classes with students with similar personality characteristics and backgrounds so that the teacher could easily get everyone motivated and interested but as I say in class: “I’m not a magician, I am a Teacher and I just do my best”.