Differentiated Teaching in a Classroom
Teachers today look for the one best way of teaching that is not of a hassle to them. Some like to teach using the easiest way, the least time-comsuming way and the one sure way which is direct teaching or teacher-centred teaching – where the teacher is the 'king'/'queen' in the classroom and the 'subjects' are the students. Orders and rules passed down by the 'king' and 'queen' must be followed without question or risked punishment.
Sad isn't it? In such a classroom environment, there's simply no room to learn and to progress. Having experienced first hand in this kind of teaching settings back in my schooldays, I realised now, as I undergo an education course, how flawed and archaic this method is.
Teachers ought to be flexible and should not stick to one way of teaching and certainly not teaching dictatorially. There is NO one best way of teaching and that teaching and learning should both accomodate the level of the students. In one class, we have so many students with different levels of potential and different learning styles and the teacher must use a mixture and variety of teaching methods and strategies that will ensure all students are reached out to and learn.
For example, some students learn best by copying notes from the blackboard and others understand better when the teacher explains to them. Yet there are others who learn better when the teacher is able to connect what he is teaching to real-life examples. And there are others who learn through images and visuals that a teacher might have brought to class. A good teacher who practises differentiated teaching will be able to employ these skills and more in a class. A teacher who practises differentiated teaching also will not risk having a student get left behind in class.
The teacher who practices this is also able to tell which student progresses more than the others, thus allowing the teacher to set extra tasks for the student to complete while the rest of the students are doing their work. How many times have you been told to sleep by a teacher in the class when you finish a task faster than the rest? Shouldn't the teachers challenge the advanced student more by giving more tasks to do rather than wasting time to sleep and be quiet? In fact, the teacher could also assign the clever student to help his classmates as well. That's the mark of a good teacher!
It's no wonder we have so many students who are disillusioned with the school and find schools boring. The school is not boring but the teaching methods and the work assigned simply does not match the potential of the child. Once a child has mastered something, he would want to do other things instead of just doing the same thing he's already mastered.
And when there are weaker and under-performing students, the teacher shouldn't neglect them for being slow because some kids are just like that… they can't help it. Patience is the key and if time dictates that the teacher should move on to another area to teach, don't neglect the poor kid…assign a classmate to help him or give him remedial classes. To my knowledge, this was what was practised in Finland.
The teaching methods and abilities of teachers in Malaysia today leaves much to be desired. The old ways of teaching cannot be applied in today's classrooms. Where in those days teachers are the know-it-all, nowadays, more often than not the students are the ones that know much better, are not afraid to question and inquire for themselves – thanks to the Internet and the accessibility of information from other sources. Teachers should revise their teaching methods – they can't just teach (read: spoonfeeding) anymore, they must facilitate and moderate.
The future of our students relies not just on a total revamp of our education system and the implementation of policies, but also redefining the teacher's role and equip them with the latest teaching techniques and methodologies. For education in Malaysia to move forward, all this must be done!