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The Art and Science of Teaching

I believe that teaching is both an art and a science and that reflection, practice and the sharing of  ideas will make you a better teacher.

The aspects that are “artistic” in teaching are those that are about presentation, relationships, and motivation. They involve the interpersonal skills and attributes of the teacher that, in a natural way, connect the dots of motivation, challenge, and progress within the classroom. The “art” of teaching is very much linked to the “craft” of teaching and as such can be learnt and practiced. Having the right mentor or coach can help this process immensely since much in the way of developing the art and craft of teaching is experience and reflection based. Many teachers are naturally good at the art of teaching but some have to work at it, either way being ready to learn is an intrinsic part of being a good teacher.

Being interested in knowing what works and why in teaching is part of the science of teaching. The science is characterised by enquiry, itself an intrinsic part of learning and of being a good teacher. We are beginning to learn about how the brain works and how learning takes place, valuable valuable information for the thinking teacher. 

To support the science of teaching planned action research is immensely useful as are coaching and mentoring to developing the art of teaching.

The great teacher is one who employs both the art and science of teaching and is characterised by the teacher that models the process of learning.

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View a Prezi about what it takes to be a great teacher

 Promoting Learning Relationships course outline from ace-d 

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Using Data to Inform Teaching and Learning course outline  from ace-d

Listen to a podcast with Kelly Long from Inspiration4Teachers.

Kelly Long chats with Kevin Hewitson, a former Assistant Headteacher known for applying his creative and problem solving skills to a vast array of initiatives linked to pastoral education, gifted and talented programs.  Now an education adviser Kevin advocates for creativity in education.

Together, Kevin and Kelly discuss doing what is right for teaching and learning.

The Art of Teaching

Positive relationships with learners can lead to motivated learners but how do we create and maintain those relationships?

Understanding the four primary needs of learners  is key to building relationships and getting them to engage cooperatively in the learning process with you. I see these needs as:

  • Power - having a voice and being listened to and not feeling ignored (powerless)
  • Belonging - being reciognised and having a place within a group
  • Choice - having options but also understanding the implications of those choices and accepting responsibility
  • Fun - recognising and celebrating achievement - rewarding effort and strategy

Much of what is seen as poor behaviour in the classroom and challlenges to the teacher's authority stem from not meeting these needs. It is not enough to hope you meet them you must plan for and take advantage of any circumstances or occasions that help in meeting them.  

So Please Be Child Friendly in your approach to teaching.

Presentation  is how we appear, behave and sound when interacting with learners. Within the art of teaching is the "act" of teaching. Successsful teachers use their acting skills to good effect and can adopt bodly language, tone of voice and characters to suit the needs of the moment. From being very disapointed to taking a real interest are all part of the acting skills of the teacher. How we enter a room can influence how learners react to our presence and the tone of the lesson. Being aware of this and getting it right is a key part of the art of teaching and can be practiced and developed.

The Science of Teaching

We have all experienced lessons that have gone well and when repeated have flopped. Getting to know learners and the stage in their learning is part of the information gathering process good teachers do. Sometimes this process can be protracted seriously affecting the progress learners make. Schools are often “data rich” with source data being part of the fabric of teaching these days but knowing how to interpret and use the information within the data is not well understood. Too often data is used to set targets, in monitoring or as predictors of future success and little more. Vital information that can influence teaching and learning can be missed if this issue is not addressed.  Applying data to classroom situations was an issue identified in the NFER Report “Use of Data in Teaching and Learning” (RR671, 2005) and remains a problem in schools today.

One characteristic of how schools hold and access data is through ICT and a lack of skills in this area can limit both access to and the interpretation of data. Fortunately there are simple and effective ways around this without putting the data source at risk. Learning to read data is also essential if we are to make the best use of it in teaching and learning.

Metacognition, “thinking about thinking” and “brain based learning” are terms used in exploring how we learn. Some of the outcomes from this work present a challenge to what we think we know about learning. Although often challenged people such as Howard Gardner have put forward theories of multiple intelligences and there has been a strong claim for the existence of learning styles. Terms such as  “VAK” (meaning visual, auditory or kinaesthetic learner) have found their way into lesson planning in schools and are widely used.  Whether multiple intelligences or learning styles exist or not their value is in raising the issue of considering how best people learn and what can be done to promote learning.  

My belief is that as teachers and learners it is “learning needs” we must acknowledge. I discuss this further in Learning, particularly in exploring what I call “Learning Intelligence” or LQ.


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