Teaching has changed little in over two thousand years. This paradigm has failed many students. I have personally met adults who have been to prep, primary and secondary school and are still not able to read and write at a basic level. Now as adults they are attending our Literacy and Numeracy workshops. One must ask the very obvious question: Didn't anybody notice that these people were not competent in these elementary skills? I'm committed and passionate about making it work- this time- for adult learners. After fifteen years of coaching and teaching and my own personal experience as someone who came to this country without being able to speak a word of English, I've picked up some great techniques! Would you like to know about them?
First of all, let me try and demystify some things for you. One of the major errors that I have heard in recent years is that "We need to understand the background and world view of each individual ESOL learner." This is so false that it's ridiculous. As a presenter or teacher you need to know your craft.
That is to impart information in a way that the person is able to internalise and apply the skills, knowledge and attitudes to their lives. You are not a sociologist or a psychologist. You are not there to rescue the learner from any traumas, past experiences or cultural limiting beliefs. You are there to engage and to make sure that the learner learns.
Call me naïve and weird, but I have a belief about teaching: "Teaching is when learning takes place." Now I know that for some of you that may be stating the obvious, but in today's "self-paced-all-care-and-no-responsibility" training environments this is quite innovative! Today, some teachers will dump the information, and then leave the learning to be done by the student or leave the room.
There are three points which I would like to leave with you today. You will remember them with the acrostic: EVA. Because learning is for eva!
Expectation, Validation and Application.
A double-blind experiment was conducted in California where the experimenters called together a randomly selected group of teachers and a randomly selected group of students. The teachers were told that they were the best teachers in the school and had been chosen for their skill and teaching ability. They were to be given the students with the highest IQs (the previously randomly selected group) to be their pupils. The teachers were honoured and felt that they could do a good job of teaching these intelligent students.
After a term of school, the teachers were called back to report on their progress. Most of them had glowing reports: "The students were hungry to learn" "They were so inquisitive and they really wanted to excel, so we gave them additional curricula to expand their voracious appetite for knowledge"
The experimenters dropped their first bombshell: "The students that you had, were picked out of a hat." "That cannot be," the teachers thought, and then concluded that because they were the best teachers in the school that this alone guaranteed that they got excellent results from otherwise average students.
That's when the second bombshell was dropped: "The students were also picked randomly!"We get what we expect. So if you expect people to succeed, if your presupposition or belief is that learners will learn and that whatever it takes, they will all be competent. Then you as a trainer will become flexible in your approach and your student will learn! Unfortunately some teachers only take the responsibility in leading the horse to water. The skillful teacher will make the horse thirsty!
For me there is what I call a "learning loop." The learning loop is like the communication loop in the sense that it's not sufficient to deliver the message, but also absolutely imperative that the message is received and understood the way that the sender intended it. The only way to make sure that it is understood is by the use of feedback mechanisms. This feedback is what we call "validation" in the field of training.
According to NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) there is no failure, only feedback. This means that if someone is not getting it, our goal as trainers is to lead/guide them by presenting the information in such as way as it can be understood, learnt and applied. Understanding is of the mind, learning is of the heart and application is of the body. We only learn information when we are able to live it out physiologically.
Traditionally, validating is done through direct assessment: tests, questionnaires, exams and oral questioning. I have found that the way we run our validation will affect the result we get. Some of these methods may lead people to a nervous, unresourceful state that we call: "terror zone." Terror zone is when we get the glazed look of a deer in front of the headlights. We want to place the participant in the most resourceful state possible; this will set them up for success. Intimidation, fear and nervousness are not useful feelings when learning new subject matter.
I use many ways of validating, but my favourite is the blue ball. (At this point I take out my blue stress ball and validate by throwing the ball to the participants and asking them: What did you learn today?) It's a fun way of learning, it gives me feedback as to the understanding of the participants, and at this point I can choose to present the information in a new way if they haven't quite grasped it.
So here is the radical idea: Validation is not only testing the students, but giving me feedback to tell me where I need to improve on my delivery! Validation closes the learning loop, which some teachers leave open.
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