Learning teaching skills Today, all teachers are faced with the

Today, all teachers are faced with the ongoing challenge of working to make their teaching more effective. Whether they teach traditional students or EFL students, teachers must develop their skills to best meet students´ educational needs. We have a fairly clear idea today of the skills teachers should seek to develop. According to Robert Slavin, "research on teaching has made significant strides in identifying teaching behaviors associated with high student achievement" (Slavin, n.d.). These teaching behaviors include "essential teaching skills," which are "basic abilities that all teachers, including those in their first year, should have to promote order and learning" (Eggen & Kauchak, 2004, p. 579). The Key Teacher Skills include Preparation, Attention, Clarity, Questioning, Monitoring, Feedback, Summarizing, and Reflection (Di Giulio, 2004).

Skill #1: Preparation

A teacher´s preparation to teach (i.e., lesson planning) is a fundamental teacher skill that is connected to student achievement (See Peterson & Clark, 1978; Doyle, 1977). Certainly, there is not only one right way to plan, nor is there one type of plan for all teachers. While some play down the usefulness of planning, teachers who look back upon their early teaching experiences tend to agree that being prepared and devoting time to preparation had been very beneficial (Clark & Peterson, 1986).

Skill #2: Attention

Helping student focus their attention is an extremely important teaching skill. No child is too young to learn to focus; indeed, when all different ages are taught to focus, successful learning outcomes are a result (Beck, 1981; Harper, 1976; Lewis, Berghoff, & Pheeney, 1999). In addition, when students focus their attention, they tend to see themselves as being successful learners (Wigfield, 1988).

Skill #3: Clarity

Jere Brophy and Thomas Good (1994, p. 362) point out that a teacher´s "clarity of presentation is a consistent correlate of achievement." Clarity relates to the way teachers organize content, how familiar the teacher is with the material, and how well "expectations and performance standards are communicated to and understood by learners" (Gettinger & Stoiber, 1999, p. 942). Teacher clarity is particularly advantageous for non-English speaking students, for low-ability students, and students from minority cultures who are at higher risk for failure and misbehavior (Linik, 2002).

Skill #4: Questioning

There is a link between the number and type of questions a teacher asks and how effective the teacher is as an instructor (Edwards & Bowman, 1996; Morine-Dershimer, 1987). In general, effective teachers ask lots of questions, and they invite students to ask questions. Indeed, questioning can serve the organization of student thinking prior to instruction (Hamaker, 1986; Hamilton, 1985), assessment (Cotton, 1988), and the revealing of student understanding. Questioning also helps the pace and momentum within lessons, and assists students in staying engaged (Good & Brophy, 2000; Kounin, 1970).

Skill #5: Monitoring

"(M)onitoring is really a system of quality control, in which the teacher is determining whether or not each step in the teaching-learning process was effective" (Cummings, 1990, p. 8). Some parts of monitoring include proximity (closeness of teacher to student), and movement (where the teacher is not glued to one spot in the classroom). Monitoring should be informed by an understanding of the culture of one´s students. For example, in Japanese and Arabic cultures, "crowding together is a sign of warm and pleasant intimacy," while Westerners generally dislike closeness and desire a greater personal space (Fast, 1970, pp. 37-39). All teachers should seek to find out about these cultural differences, especially in parts of the U.S. and Great Britain that have recently experienced an influx of immigrants from non-Western cultures.

Skill #6: Feedback

Teacher feedback improves student learning outcomes (Blake, 1996; Kearsley, 2002; Pellett, Henschel-Pellett, & Harrison, 1994). For instance, the amount and type of feedback received by students influences the quality of the content, organization, and mechanics of students´ writing (Matsumura, Patthey-Chavez, Valeds, & Garnier, 2002). The most useful feedback is specific, immediate, and contains information about what students can do to improve their performance, or fix a problem (and not simply hear whether it was correct or incorrect) (Butler & Winne, 1995; Kindsvatter, Wilen, & Ishler, 1988). Usually, teacher-student feedback that is positive is, unsurprisingly, very effective (Lhyle & Kulhavy, 1987; Stipek, 1993, 1996).

Skill #7: Summarizing

Whether a teacher engages in teacher-centered or student- centered teaching, the teacher´s skill in summarizing can promote learning (King, 1992; Rinehart, Stahl, & Erickson, 1986; Thiede & Anderson, 2003). Summarizing serves to ensure understanding, and also to look ahead and "set the table" for next class. Summarizing can be a quick review, which can enrich understanding, and move students from surface understandings to deeper connections with the material at hand (Dempster, 1991). Even a brief two-minute summary at the end of class, or at the end of the day, serves to increase the depth and extent of students´ retention.

Skill #8: Reflection

The final key teaching skill is reflection. This means asking oneself "What went well/not so well'" "What needs to be improved'" Reflection should be both an individual and a group activity. Individual reflection is essential, while reflecting with other teachers can offer a variety of new directions one can take. Reflecting with others can help one avoid falling into a rut. Good reflection is part of a circle, including planning for instruction, carrying out the instruction, and then reflecting on how it went.

By working on one´s skills as a teacher, students will become the beneficiaries of those endeavors. In all settings, learning teacher skills is a most powerful promoter of student achievement.


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