Do you know your students well?
Willy A Renandya, 16 June 2022
Teaching and learning are two different things. Many of us used to believe that what we taught was what our students learned. We now know that students don’t always learn what we want them to learn.
Indeed, students often learn very little from our lessons. One of the reasons is that perhaps we pitch our lesson a bit too high and use teaching materials the content of which lies far afield from students’ background knowledge.
Not surprisingly, it is often difficult for them to make use of their prior experiences to make meaningful connections. We know of course from research that prior knowledge and experience have a huge influence on the quality and quantity of learning.
Good teachers understand that effective teaching is possible when they know their students’ linguistic, affective, cognitive and social needs.
Good teachers for example can design and deliver their lessons in ways that meet the needs of their diverse student population. They will, for example, use
- just-right language to explain language concepts
- choose teaching materials that are affectively and cognitively appealing
- engage students in tasks that spark their curiosity and motivation
- employ socially and culturally sensitive language teaching methodology
- assess learning using multiple assessment procedures that deepen and extend learning.
In the context of teaching reading, teachers with deep knowledge of their subject matter and their students might be in a better position to provide more individualized attention and support to their students.
In other words, they might just be able to give the right amount of support, at the right time and to the right the students, i.e., those who need it the most.
The ability to provide this highly customized support is a much needed skill today as we strive to make language learning more inclusive by addressing the needs of our student population who come from diverse social, cultural and linguistic backgrounds.
It is important to note that education should become a level playing field for each and every student, regardless of their racial, social, economic and cultural backgrounds, where they are given an equal chance of success.
To quote Terry Heick, Founder & Director of TeachThought (an education website dedicated to improving life through learning innovation):
“Life is not fair; but education should be” (Heick, n.d.).
Good language teachers, and all teachers for that matter, should continue to find ways to help every single child to flourish and become the best that they can be despite their initial differences.
To achieve this lofty ideal in education, the first thing we need to do is to know each and every one of our students in our classroom.