“Hey! Teacher! Leave Them Kids Alone”

Pink Floyd, the most influential English rock band, seems to understand what real teaching is all about. The title above is a line from their song, Another Brick in the Wall Part 2. Knowing the typical responsibilities of a teacher, it may sound ridiculous the first time you hear it but if you ponder on it, it simply agrees with the old Chinese proverb, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

credit: U.S. Embassy Pakistan @ Flickr

This tells us that for you to be an effective educator, you must be capable of cultivating independence among your students. It’s impossible for your students to absorb all the details you’ve mastered all these years but as soon as they’ve developed the sense of independent learning, you can sit back and relax as they’d definitely go places.

Here are three doable ways of promoting independence in the classroom.

Learn the Art of Asking Questions

Ask questions that would enhance the higher-order thinking skills of students. Letting the kids remember the plot of the story is too superficial. You need to let them analyze each scene, evaluate the characters in the story and generate ideas on how they’d like the story to end. When you simply ask a low-level question, you’re neglecting their ability to think critically in a situation, an important aspect of promoting independence.

Don’t Spoon-Feed the Answers

A good teacher knows the right answer but a great teacher can lead the class to it. If you have ample time, ask the students discuss the problem among themselves, go to the library for research and surf the Internet to let them experience their own ‘eureka’ moment. Get rid of using conventional teacher-centered strategies. Explore the possibilities where students can discover, learn and remember facts on their own.

Utilize Authentic Assessment

Evaluation doesn’t always have to include a piece of paper and a pen. It can be performance-based where more important skills are tested.

Instead of having a long quiz on World War II, why don’t you let them have an exhibit of well-captioned photos at school? They will definitely not only review the validity of posed information. They’ll also develop their judgment on which photos to post, their creativity when they set things up, their marketing skills to attract more visitors and their teamwork in making the exhibit a success.

Contrary to other people’s assumptions, when you concentrate on implying the value of independence, it doesn’t mean you have chosen a slack way of class management. In fact, it can be more taxing as you need to guide every student thinking of different ideas, making different decisions and doing different ways. You must also come up with an objective strategy of performance evaluation.

Apparently, better ways of teaching require more effort from everyone involved in the learning process. Do you agree?