The best way to become a successful teacher and create assessments for student success is to take the time to understand the “teaching-learning process.”
Most young educators, who are just beginning to study the craft of teaching, must take an Educational Psychology course at some point. In this course students are expected to utilize class readings, discussions, case studies, and projects in order to better conceptualize what it means to truly “understand.” By the end, students should be able to build a sound working model of the teaching-learning process, which in turn should assist them in becoming effective educators in the future. The teaching-learning process is a planned interaction that promotes behavioral change that is not a result of maturation or coincidence. It is a system that is both reflective and reciprocated; it is a vital part of understanding how students learn in the classroom setting.
Autonomy is very important when it comes to getting students to learn. The only thing students have complete control over is how they think and in a teaching-learning environment, nothing is more important than getting students to use their brains. When it comes to crafting assessments, there has to be room for autonomy. For this reason, the inclusion of vocabulary in a matching section, as well as, a short answer section, is important. The short answer section forces students to think, write, and respond in their own words, rather than just memorize facts. Memorization, or the traditional way of an instructionism education, has historically been the least effective way of learning. However there is a way to include it without letting this method dominate the assessment. Matching sections give the student space to recall key definitions and/or concepts that stand as important ideas, while a short answer section allows them to expand on those ideas. Responding in short answer form puts definitions from the class into perspective. Allowing students free range to express themselves in the short response sections also tackles the problem of honoring the students’ sense of agency and autonomy, while at the same time honoring the “correctness” of the content. In addition, the fact that some of the questions throughout the exam should ask students to draw upon class readings, shows their involvement in the course.
Understanding is critical to the process of teaching and learning. There are three different types of learning outcomes, and since taking an exam is a source of outcome, how students perform will reflect through their progression in the course and on the exam. Students can show their understanding either through performing a skill, retaining facts, or explaining concepts. It is the teacher’s responsibility to enable his or her class to put all three into practice. Writing out short responses gives the students a chance to bridge together ideas and display their knowledge of the terms. This also will give the professor a better idea of whether or not the class fully understood the concepts. The test should be designed so that if the student can successfully match up the reoccurring terms with their textbook definitions, answering the more open-ended questions should be easy.
Teaching and learning is a complex cognitive process, therefore having a firm understanding of how teaching and learning work is imperative to being a successful young teacher. Teachers should constantly consider what needs to happen in order to promote learning and what students might need to do in order to actually learn. Examples of this could be providing a short essay section on a test that asks students to decide between either comparing/contrasting deep knowledge versus traditional knowledge or writing a narrative that a teacher might use to introduce certain ideas to the class. These examples give students a chance to be autonomous in an evaluative climate.
Exams should also represent the different ways of learning and give students choices. One student might be more creative and score best on the narrative option, whereas another student might want to answer a in a more structured manner and perform better on a different option. Giving students choices that reflect various learning styles sets students up for success and gives them confidence. For example, if a student decides to write the narrative, then they are showing that they understand how meaningful learning happens. When new knowledge is related to existing meaningful knowledge, deep learning can occur. Therefore, using story telling as a cognitive tool can be a very effective way to assess.
Furthermore, regardless of which essay question the students decide to answer, their answers will illustrate how well they understood the lesson. It will be evident in the way they define key terms, utilize important ideas from the readings, or compose an engaging story that puts their imaginations to work in order to better understand different concepts.
It is the teacher’s job to input knowledge, it is the students’ jobs to reciprocate this knowledge to the class while bringing their own unique knowledge to the group, and the outcome is finding out if they actually understand the material through different forms of evaluations. Yet, many factors can affect that process. Culture, background, family, societal factors, economic factors, peers, and religion are only a few of the many influential factors that affect the teaching-learning process. Educators, as well as students, have to work around these challenges if learning is to take place.
A teacher’s primary goals should be guiding, assisting, educating, and motivating students. However, sometimes this can be difficult because individual students understand and receive knowledge differently. Teachers often teach the ways in which they themselves were taught, but in almost all classroom settings, each student learns differently. Some students retain audio information better, whereas some may need to have information written down on the board. Other students learn better when they get to work with their hands or incorporate both verbal and written down information. For this reason, assessments should be constructed in a way that keeps different learning styles in mind. Each section should serve its own unique purpose and address the different types of learning styles that students might have. A well-rounded mid-term or final exam may include some or all of the following:
• Matching sections for students who thrive when expected to memorize information
• True false for students who feel more confident when allotted a fifty-fifty success rate
• Short answers for the visual learners who prefer a more open-ended evaluation
• A short essay to give both creative and even not-so-creative students the opportunity expand on their thinking
• One or two bonus questions to hopefully alleviate some of the stress of test taking.
Most young, ambitious teachers already have a personally, politically, or socially-motivated passion for educating. Along with their passion, if they are a good teacher, they want their students to succeed. That is why the teaching-learning process and well-rounded assessments are important for future teachers to understand and implement in their classrooms. It is possible to accomplish this given the right training, instruction, and enthusiasm. Student teachers, who have a firm grasp on promoting deep knowledge and a clear understanding of what it means to a teacher in 21st century America, can effectively make learning both a joy and life-long desire for their students.
I. Rose De Lilly is a published writer, educator, and award-winning poet. When she is not working on her graduate degree or teaching children to read, she writes engaging articles for Educator.com. She enjoys traveling, spoken word, bike riding at the beach, finding new restaurants, reading, carpentry, and collecting miniatures. Connect on Linkedin!