It is possible to make every student a successful student. Here success could mean different things to different students and their teachers. When the full potential of a student is realized in the chosen avocation, one can infer that success is achieved. Teaching and learning happen the best when there is perceived interest in both the teacher and the learner. Nurturing education through better teaching and learning methods can enhance the ability of a teacher for providing quality mathematics education1 (Chism,1998). Because of the inherent anxiety in math education, additional preparation in terms of understanding the psychology of the students is a critical success factor.
Many times we find impediments to teaching and learning either because there is no evident interest in the teacher or the learner or both; or there is no proper supporting mechanism/ system to augment the teaching and learning.
In the following paragraphs, an outline of various teaching / instructional methodologies for the teachers and learning strategies for the students are outlined for best possible outcomes for both sides of the equation. These are meant for any teaching including mathematics. Based on my own personal experiences of teaching and learning and professional research, I outlined a few of the many methodologies. Mention is also made of the importance of overall learning environment.
Teaching / Instructional Methodologies2 (New Horizons For Learning,2002)
a. Action Research
Action Research is a very powerful strategy for instructional improvement and provides teachers the necessary skills for solving problems specific to their classrooms and their schools. By using a five step process – question, data collection, data analysis, findings and action plan – teachers can improve their own teaching skills while improving their classroom/school outcomes3 (Reed, 2000)
b. Differentiated Instruction
Differentiated Instruction takes into account the various ways in which students learn as against Direct Instruction which focuses mainly on memorizing facts and skills. Differentiated Instruction on the other hand focuses on concepts, understanding, readiness and interest.
c. Environment for Learning:
The definition or perception of Learning Environment from a curriculum and instruction based learning is changing to an environment for successful learning which is based on a variety of emotional, intellectual, visual and spatial stimuli. Schools located in such environs as zoos, museums, culture are redefining the way learning takes place and learning environment is created.
d. Accelerated Learning
Accelerated learning is based on the original work of ‘Suggestology’4 (Dr. Lozanov, 1978) which included relaxation, visual arts and music for teaching foreign language students. Accelerated learning takes into account various beliefs/theories such as Learning is dual-planned; there is no single stimulus etc. The Core Elements for Accelerated Learning include Physical Environment, Music, Teacher, Positive Atmosphere and a teaching Frame. Teaching Frame in turn includes three phases – Preparation, Active and Passive.
e. Teaching for Understanding:
This approach seeks to get answers to the three key questions:
1. What does it mean to understand?
2. How do we teach for understanding?
3. How do we assess understanding?
Using the concept of ‘throughlines’ a teacher can engage the students continuously and throughout the year on the goals set out for understanding the concepts based on a set of predefined questions.
Classroom based Learning Continuum Tool
The Northwest Evaluation Association launched a tool DesCartes: A Continuum of Learning. This tool is designed for teachers and principals to simplify the task of translating assessment data into specific skills and concepts5 (Business Wire, 2004).
The tool is used to map mathematics, reading, and language usage skills along a continuum of learning, and connects each skill with test score ranges and state standards for all the states
Teachers can use DesCartes information for:
• Identification of specific skills and concepts students need
• Selection of materials based on the diversity of skill levels within a class, and find appropriate materials for students at the extreme ends of the learning spectrum.
• Creation of flexible learning groups based on students’ performance and
• Collaboration with staff to successfully meet the needs of all learners6 (Grasha, 1996).
Teaching and Learning have become very critical in not only realizing the full potential of the learners but in doing so have become necessary tools to build a productive workforce. Teaching styles6, improvements in technology and expectations of parents, society have contributed to the growth of new methods of teaching, learning and creating new Learning Environments. Hence it is important that we assess the teachers for their ability and aptitude and also assess the learner’s ability and aptitude. A match making of these two would most definitely produce successful teaching and learning outcomes. Many of the methods discussed above would definitely make it is possible for every student to become a successful student and every teacher a successful teacher.