Teaching in Today’s World

Written by Caroline Correia, Caroline is a teacher at Pecanwood College, she is the HOD of English in the Prep School and Head of Preparatory Administration.

Growing up and spending most of my schooling years in the 1980s, we were taught skills and concepts that would help us pass Matric and receive our National Senior Certificates, and so on to enter University or the workplace to take up jobs in age-old professions such as doctors, nurses, lawyers, teachers, plumbers, electricians and so forth.

Teaching today is not what it was in those years. In a fast-paced world where technology and the human race, is changing and evolving on a daily basis, and it is no longer sufficient to teach pupils to regurgitate facts and figures. One has to equip the children with skills to deal and cope with a world of constant change, and for jobs that do not yet exist. They need to be able to plan, execute and solve problems and issues relative to global, health and social dilemmas that could be faced now, or in the future.

How does a teacher accomplish this?

By helping children to become critical thinkers who continually ask and research answers to the question “why?” Critical thinking can be defined as “the art of thinking about thinking1”(Ruggiero, V.R. 2012) so that one improves their thinking skills. The challenge for today’s teacher is to create learning environments that promote critical thinking, both in the classroom and beyond.

Owing to the fact that children are bombarded with visual stimulus on a daily basis via television, computers, tablets, phones, X-boxes, PlayStation etc., and the majority of children have become reliant on visual stimuli, hence the old “chalk and talk” method of teaching does not accommodate their style of learning. Instead, teachers have to make learning and instruction visible for the children in order for it to have an impact.

Classrooms and lessons need to be made into visible critical thinking environments where children can use critical thinking to learn and explore the topics that they are given. The onus, is therefore, on the teacher to use and implement strategies to facilitate this process. The classroom itself, should be rich in print and subject-specific material, becoming in essence “the third teacher.” Strategies that encourage co-operative learning, such as, Kagans should be utilized to revise and consolidate concepts as well as initiate and accommodate controversial discussions. A variety of tools and strategies, like bubble maps, treemaps, brace maps, thinking keys, puzzle pieces, Venn diagrams and demonstrations should be used to enhance learning and cultivate visible critical thinking skills in the children when working individually and in groups, amongst their peers. Core Skills (Self- management, Research, Communication, Social and Thinking Skills) should be the focal point from which all activities stem and should govern the way teachers facilitate learning and their teaching.

Children need to take ownership of their own learning. Their learning has to be visible, attainable and measurable for them. It is vital that as teachers, we ourselves are life-long learners that are open to creating visible critical thinking environments in our classrooms allowing children the opportunity to challenge ideas and issues in a safe space, eventually creating a generation of critical thinkers who can solve the problems of tomorrow.