The Importance of Proper Teaching for Students Motivation

Introduction

The main aim of this essay is to discuss the question and discover the answer of ‘Is there more to teaching than acquiring a set of skills?’ Throughout this essay I will draw upon knowledge from scholars and authors such as Robert Boostrom, Houston Peterson and John Alec Baker. Teaching as a definition is said to be ‘The occupation, profession, or work of a teacher.’ However, the complex challenges, intricate qualities and immense passion are not stated in this simplistic description. The definition of the opposing word ‘skill’ on the other hand is ‘The ability to do something well; expertise.’ While I agree that a well-established teacher would be an expert in their field, in my opinion, I think that there is so much more to teaching than that unassuming definition. To determine a solution to this complex argument a variety of themes must be explored such as: The Irish education system and its limitations, teaching as a moral activity, teaching characteristics and qualities, and the role of student-teacher relationships and its impact on motivation levels.

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The Irish Education System and Its Effect on Teachers

Ireland has tended to pride itself on an excellent education system and on the quality of its teachers. In 2010 the Teaching Council launched a survey, based on a nationally representative sample of the public which found that people generally possess positive attitudes towards the teaching profession with ‘a high level of trust among teachers’ and ‘a strong endorsement of the valuable role teachers play in our society’. The question we must pose is why do we have such a dedicated congregation of teachers today? And are they more than the skills they acquire? The Education System in Ireland today plays a significant role in our teachers and our students lives alike. Liam Wegimont of Mount Temple Comprehensive School, Dublin says our education system should encourage curiosity and a love of investigation. In Ireland today high stake examinations and soaring CAO points often mean that students are ‘taught to the test’ and little room is left for free enquiry. Teachers are however still expected to deliver an education that promotes problem-solving, critical thinking and creativity. Teachers become much more than their acquired skills when they have to provide such a rounded education suitable for third-level and the working world under the time constraints on schools today.

Teaching as a Moral and Motivational Activity

Teaching can be referred to as a vocation or also as a moral and moticational activity. ‘Moral’ in the Oxford Dictionary can be described as ‘Being concerned with the principles of right and wrong behaviour.’ In theory teaching is concerned with the principles of right and wrong as everyday teachers must provide guidance and ensure that the students behaviour is adequate for a healthy learning environment. Robert Boostrom once stated that if he asked a group of teachers if teaching was a moral activity the answer would be immediately ‘yes’ but if he asked the same group why that was they would be uncertain and the answer wouldn’t be as immediate. The reality of this statement questions the ethics behind teaching as a profession. Some question to what extent are teachers responsible for their students? Are they the mothers and fathers of the classroom teaching the next generation what is acceptable and what isn’t or are they supposed to the stick to the textbook only? For others the explanation behind teaching being a moral and motivational activity leads to thoughts associated with moral education. However, teachers need not be spiritually inclined or involved with subjects that specialise in ethics such as CSPE or Religion to be moral amongst their students. Moral lessons are included in every day lessons in every subject. Teachers motivating students to do their homework, to study, to recycle and to live sustainable lives are all morally stipulating. Slogans and posters decorating the corridors with uplifting content, expression of satisfaction and dissatisfaction throughout the school day all are moral content covered by teachers. The way a teacher must treat their students equally regardless of their age, religion, nationality, race or disability all stems from a person’s morals and decent morality cannot be acquired in a set of skills. It is a part of the person you are and the qualities you possess before you ever learn how to teach.

Teaching Characteristics and Qualities

“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” This quote arises from the famous William Arthur Ward an American writer who tells us what addition teachers can make to the educational world. One may argue that you could even link this quote to Blooms Taxonomy. On closer inspection of the quote, each last word possibly relates to a levels of Blooms. In my opinion, the teacher who only ‘tells’ is trapped on the bottom of blooms meaning that their students can only ever remember the information and recall it or define it for a short period of time. The teacher who only ‘explains’ the information can possibly get their students to understand the material momentarily and maybe discuss or describe it to others. The teacher who demonstrates often has students who can apply and analyse their new found knowledge. They are able to use the information in new situations or draw connection among different ideas. The ultimate teacher is arguably the one who can apply all levels of Blooms Taxonomy to their students learning. This teacher can ‘inspire’ students by challenging them with evaluating or creating within their learning. This teacher is known as the great teacher.

The great teacher must always be relatable to their students. I wouldn’t go as far to say friends of course. Some inevitable, possibly desirable psychological distance will always remain. They may not be equals with the same goals trying to answer similar questions but often enough the gulf between becomes far too big and their voices get lost in the void between. Aristotle, a famous philosopher once believed that the poet must be ‘master of the metaphor’. In this context, I consider the poet the teacher and similarly enough to metaphors, he/she must always have an assortment of learning strategies or methodologies to help piece the lesson together, to make the complex, simple and to relate the information to the student.

According to Houston Peterson the most important thing we owe to our students is to be able to awaken and startle them into thought. We cannot assume that they have an interest in our subject or that our presence immediately interrupts them from their daydreams. Often, if the student is uninterested and lacks motivation it is due to the teachers limited enthusiasm. In my opinion, enthusiasm is one of the most important characteristics of a great teacher for if you are not passionate or excited about your area of knowledge than how can your students be? Peterson also states that teachers in the areas of athleticism such as physical education teachers are possibly the most effective. They have clear aims in terms of measuring achievement and put the academic subjects to shame. They actively ‘learn by doing’ and this practical approach increases participation and therefore the interest and effort involved. If teachers of more academic based subjects could apply an approach similar to this, I think student satisfaction and success would increase tremendously. As a result, I think another hugely important characteristic of the great teacher is excellent communication skills and the ability to develop relationships with the learners. These vital characteristics ensure the students’ needs are met and an optimum learning environment is achieved. Although communication skills may be acquired throughout learning to teach, the ability to develop strong relationships with others is a quality that must be established from a young age.

The Role of Student-Teacher Relationships and Its Impact on Motivation Levels

Student-teacher relationships play a huge part in a pupil’s motivation to learn. According to John Alec Baker, when children attend school in the beginning, they are confronted by a variety of new challenges to include but are not limited to forming positive relationships with peers and elders and also learning to face demands of a huge range of academic, social and cognitive tasks. A teacher can be responsible for guiding a child through these early days and building a motivation to learn in the classroom. Younger children are more driven by their natural curiosity and intense desire to explore. They have a natural thirst for knowledge. However, the more children grow, the more direction they need in their studies to ensure they are motivated adequately. Motivation to learn is a skill acquired through a range of general experiences that are primarily stimulated through modelling, communication of expectations, and direct instruction or by significant others such as teachers. In general, motivated students learn better, learn more and tend to learn independently. So in theory if teachers dedicate a minimal amount of time to motivating and inspiring their students, they will reap the rewards and more will be gained than using conventional transfer of knowledge methods.

Motivation can be defined as the process that helps initiate goal-directed activity and enables that activity to be sustained. Motivation to learn is also enhanced by a quality relationship between learners and their teachers. According to Birch & Ladd, children who report positive relationships with the authoritarian figure in the classroom are often much more socially competent and confident within their learning. Teachers usually agree that positive relationships within their classroom often produce a safe, stimulating learning environment where students can share their intellectual thoughts and feelings while the teacher in question feels respected and can deliver a comprehensive lesson to the learners. There are many researchers who have undertook studies on the affiliation between student-teacher relationships and the academic success associated with it. According to Davis and Ashley positive interactions between teachers and learners promoted classroom learning, enhanced classroom management effectiveness and improved student motivation by creative a supportive network for pupils to take intellectual risks. In addition to this result, teachers in this study believed that the students who admired them and created a caring rapport with them worked the hardest and were the most motivated in the classroom. As a result, teachers in this study invested a considerable amount of time and effort into developing healthy relationships with their learners. Personally, I think it’s interesting how being ‘admirable’ motivated students to pay attention and do their best because in my opinion, being ‘liked’ certainly wouldn’t be on the top of many teacher’s itineraries. These key statistics support the vital role of the student-teacher relationship and the link it provides with pupil’s motivation to learn. The skill of inspiring and motivating a child is not one that is easily acquired.

Conclusion

Throughout my continuous research on the question of ‘Learning to teach: Is there more to teaching than acquiring a set of skills?’ I have a come to an astute conclusion. After taking every angle into account, I have decided personally that there is much more to teaching than just acquiring skills. During the course of my research I have examined several deciding topics such as: The Irish education system and its limitations, teaching as a moral activity, teaching characteristics and qualities, and the role of student-teacher relationships and its impact on motivation levels. Due to the tight curriculum and climbing requirements for college places, teachers are more strained than ever before to distribute a high quality education to learners, while ensuring students are highly motivated and a quality rapport is maintained. Exceptional qualities and characteristics must be attained by teachers to achieve worthy results in the classroom and to deal with the frantic lives they lead. Therefore, teaching is unquestionably a moral activity and certainly a vocation. It is far from a just a skill to be acquired.    

07 July 2022

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