,Blackboard Education

Engage with the class

Encouraging students to ask questions and think, is the hallmark of a great teacher

Joseph Lowman’s book, Mastering the Techniques of Teaching (1984), has been my all-time favourite. Lowman’s concepts of intellectual excitement and interpersonal rapport are helpful for every teacher. He provides a framework which helps teachers in evaluating themselves on two dimensions on a range of high, medium and low.

Lowman argues that for good teaching, a teacher must possess the ability to excite students intellectually and the capacity to develop a rapport with them. A teacher who is intellectually stimulating and moderate on interpersonal relations with students is acceptable, but someone who is neither stimulating nor respectful towards students is not sought after.

Intellectual excitement

Teachers high on intellectual excitement are extremely clear. They present content in an engaging way. They make students see connections with new concepts and how to apply them to new situations. They present content with high energy, using examples that students can relate to, and make them experience the excitement of learning. Students love their classes and describe such teachers as ‘great’ and the course as ‘fantastic’.

In contrast, there are teachers who are vague and dull. Their body language shows lethargy in their explanation. They confuse the students who find it hard to pay attention in class or to take notes. Lecture time seems to pass slowly, and students seek excuses to bunk class. They describe such teachers as ‘boring’ and the course as ‘awful’.

Interpersonal rapport

Just as cultivating intellectual excitement is necessary, it is also important for teachers to develop a friendly relationship with students. By ‘friendly’, Lowman means being polite, open to students’ ideas and being student-centered.

A teacher who is high on interpersonal rapport takes an interest in her/his students and constantly asks: ‘Are they able to relate to the material? Are they enjoying what I am teaching? If not, I must change my strategy’. Teachers who care about their students’ learning are loved greatly. Those who encourage students to ask questions and express their views, make learning a two-way process. Students want to attend their every class.

Those who are low on interpersonal rapport will treat students like pieces of furniture — not look at them, not try to know their names, and fail to recognise them outside the classrooms. Such teachers fear that students will take advantage of them, but this is not true. It is not even true that if a student asks a question, he/she is trying to ‘get’ at teachers. Some teachers snub/insult students for asking questions. In such situations, students feel rejected and lose the motivation to study.

Think back to your own college days, about who your favourite teachers were and who weren’t. All our teachers will fit into Lowman’s paradigm. It is a useful tool that can help in becoming better teachers.

The writer is former professor from IIT Bombay. vineykirpal@gmail.com

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Printable version | Apr 4, 2020 6:18:00 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/education/engage-with-the-class/article27169921.ece

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