The Three Pillars of Education: Learning, Teaching, and Assessment
Linguistically, according to English | Oxford Dictionaries, learn means “Gain or acquire knowledge of or skill in something by studying, experience or being taught”, while teach means “Impart knowledge to or instruct someone as to how to do something” and assess means “Evaluate or estimate the nature, ability or quality of”. From the preceding definitions, one can say that learning, teaching, and assessment are the three pillars of education, which is defined as “the process of receiving or giving systematic instruction, especially at a school or university”. Education is an important activity for the human being to live in a good manner in this world. Moreover, education is of a great importance that the first five verses revealed from the Holy Quran, more than 14 centuries ago, encourage us to read and of course to educate. The English translation of these verses, as in the English Translation of The Noble Quran - NobleQuran.com, is: “In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, and the Most Merciful.
- Read! In the Name of your Lord Who created (all that exist).
- Has created man from a clot (a piece of thick coagulated blood)
- Read! And your Lord is the Most Generous.
- Who has taught (the writing) by the pen.
- Has taught man that which he knew not.” (Surah 96: Al-‘Alaq).
So, anyone goes through education process aiming to learn something, there must be an instructor to teach him and there must be an assessment to evaluate how much the student learn and how much the instructor teaches. Therefore, in the following subsection, each pillar is discussed.
Learning is the instinct which the God has created human being on it, beginning from the infant learns how to feed his mother’s breast to learn how to manage the affairs of his life.
Learning involves a variety of activities, for example, recognizing, understanding, memories and remembering information, development, and mastering. Although many research works have been conducted on learning, transferring results of those researches into practice is still difficult. This may be explained by how the academic staff teaches their students, as they almost adhere to how they were learned and might not aware of how their students learn.
As illustrated in Figure 1, learning theories are classified into four main categories: Behaviorism; Cognitivism; Humanism; and Constructivism.
Behaviorism learning theories claim that human being mind, when they born, looks like a blank slate, then start learning by interaction with the environment which means that one’s behavior results from the consequences he faces.
Cognitivism clarifies the role of the brain in processing the new information by analysis the mental process. Moreover, these theories are based on the assumption that memory motivation and cognition play an important role in the learning process.
Humanism is to apply the available knowledge about human being nature and how they learn in a systematic, conscious way.
Constructivism learning theories state that people depend on their own experiences to build and construct their own understanding and knowledge of the surrounding world.
A teacher may consider education process as a “Mass Production Process” due to the numerous students graduated every year. However, it should not, because of the diversity in students (gender, background, understanding level, skills…), disciplines (medical science, engineering science, humanities…) and the teachers themselves. That is why I see that lecturer should not stick to only one theory or a category of theories simply because each category completes the other.
From my point of view, the most important point in education is to make student engage in the session, this can be done in several ways, one of them is to motivate the student in the more autonomy-supportive way to engage them in studying. However, applying this method requires the teacher to learn how to support student’s autonomy which might not be acceptable by some of them. Additionally, this work extensively explains the relation between motivation and students engagement but did not tell us actually how to make students engage.
From the methods that can be used to engage students in the session is to begin the session with the aims and outcomes that they will achieve after completing this session. Besides that, using session intended outcomes (ILO) is a requirement for the UK Professional Standards Framework (UKPSF) | Higher Education Academy. It is of great importance for the students to know what they should learn in the session to be ready to either gain or retrieve some information, knowledge or skills. Moreover, the ILO helps teachers to align teaching activities and assessment with those outcomes.
After setting a session ILO, the session should be carefully planned to include a range of activities. From those activities that help the student to engage in the session is to warm up by asking some questions to retrieve some previously studied information. This point does not only help in engaging students but also a good way to overcome student failure to retrieve some information or fundamentals.
Another method to be used to engage students in the lecture is active learning. This method can be achieved by using group discussion, asking some students to give a presentation, questioning, let some students draw on the whiteboard and supporting them either by the teacher or their peers. All of these make students comfortable in the lecture and happy to make simple or extended contributions, additionally creates a positive atmosphere and good relationship between teacher and students. Another proposed action is to encourage students and support them to achieve higher academic standards by enriching the experience and academic challenge.
As pointed out before the diversity in students along with some teacher related aspect as teacher’s preparation and training; presentation style; and communication skills represent a challenge for lecturers to achieve effective teaching. For a lecturer to be effective, he should do his best and make use of his skills to motivate and inspire his students to engage and learn the delivered information. Effective learning in the classroom depends greatly on the capabilities of the teacher to preserve the students’ interest that brought them to the lecture.
To achieve an outstanding lecture, it should be delivered in an engaging, interesting, and informative way. Here the teaching methods and strategies have emerged as they are of great importance that they can be described as a critical component of teaching and hence lecturer should carefully choose the proper teaching methods to achieve the session outcomes.
In engineering, for example as the experimental science, there are many teaching methods can be used among them the lecture; small group teaching; problem-based learning; and practical work. Lecturing is to teach through giving verbal explanations of the subject to be taught, the visual aids are often used to help students visualize the subject. While small group teaching sometimes represents a difficulty especially when the discipline is not clear to the students. Whereas problem-based learning is distinguished by transferring the new information through the problem context, this method increases student motivation, develop their deeper understanding and encourage autonomous and joint learning. As for the practical work is a process of teaching through examples or experiments, also, the empirical evidence can be used to demonstrate information through a combination of visual evidence and associated logic. In my opinion, practical identification helps to raise student's interests and enhance information recall as it provides connectivity facts and application in everyday life. Lectures, on the other hand, tend to provide more facts than to help coherence.
A lecturer can be distinguished from each other by his understanding of the students’ needs, teaching style and his willingness to acquire a good quality, teaching that are respected by the students. A good teacher should not only understand students; expectation but also exceed these expectations. Students have different levels of willingness for learning, have different levels of understanding. On the other side, students expect to add new information and skills and to consider each one circumstance. So, the lecturer is the responsibility of delivering the course material in an attractive, motivating and engaging style that motivate and attract students. Additionally, he should demonstrate the capabilities of subject matter to solve the real-world problems and to cope with each student's latent desire to learn.
To achieve this, there are many teaching styles and approaches. This includes (but not limited to research) group discussion, asking questions, practical analysis, projects and letting some students explain some topics using their own style. It is the teacher role to design, plan and control the teaching session, however, he has to be flexible to some extent and switch from one strategy to another depending on the current situation and how students respond. Moreover, he should strongly understand that he must continuously improve himself.
Students Use a Computer in the Classroom with the Help of a Teacher
Students read with the help of a Teacher
Assessment is an important element of the education process that is why William (2013) called it the bridge between teaching and learning, as it is the verified method for teachers/lecturer to evaluate how their students learn. Of course, this is true to some extent, however, assessment has another role that exceeds that point, as it is used to give students feedback to correct any misunderstanding. Moreover, it is used to distinguish between students and identify which of them worth to attain appropriate certification. That is why I consider it one of the three pillars of education along with learning and teaching. Here I should point out that my understanding of the value of assessment is extracted from the latest version of the UK quality code for higher education, (Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education, 2013). Another six main purposes of assessment could be considered namely: pedagogy; measuring; standardization; certification from a previous version; student motivation; and teaching method evaluation.
Mainly assessment is classified into formative and summative assessments. The first one where a feedback is given to the student aiming to increase their understanding of the subject and no marks or grades are there, it only aims to let both students and lecturers know the points of weakness that need improvement. While the second one is used to decide if the students pass or fail a certain course or program, moreover it is used to rank them. This explains the urgency of students to replace summative assessments with formative ones.
Someone argued that teachers who consider assessment as an endpoint cannot improve their teaching methods, while if they consider it as a step forward and change their assessment method; they would change their teaching methods as well and enhance the learning process. So the selection of the appropriate method of assessment ranges from the essay which is suitable to exam the ability of the student to construct the coherent argument, to the computer-based assessment which enables students to practice disciplinary skills and motivate them.
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