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Friday, September 20, 2019

Ineffective teachers: The other big problem in education

WE HAVE so many problems in our educational system. We have insufficient classrooms, books, and teachers. We have decrepit learning facilities. We have inappropriate curricula in grade school and high school. But there is another problem that we do not often discuss and that is we have ineffective teachers.

Sometimes, we are afraid to talk about this—teachers, after all, are generally held in high regard. But we finally have to admit that we have so many teachers that are ineffective at educating students. There are those who do not have the appropriate academic background or knowledge set. This brings to mind a college professor who had a degree in biology but was teaching a computer subject. He oftentimes had no clue about what he was doing. There are those who do not have adequate skills and related experience. There are so many clinical instructors in nursing schools who do not have satisfactory skills in patient assessment. Some of them do not even have any experience in the clinical area. Because of this, they are only able to impart very little knowledge and skills to students—and they do not even do that very well.

Then there are those who are not adept at teaching. They may have the technical qualifications—college degrees, postgraduate degrees, work experience—but they do not have skills in teaching. They are the teachers who do not know how to communicate or share their knowledge, skills, and experiences well. They are those who do not know how to use simple communication tools such as rephrasing and paraphrasing.

They are the ones who are not good at elucidating specific topics. They do not make critical analyses. They do not cite relevant examples; neither do they come up with correct analogies. Many of them simply read their books or their PowerPoint presentations.

Inept teachers also include those who do not know how to determine and focus on what is relevant. They do not know how to filter information from published references—they even copy nearly the entire text to their PowerPoint presentations. They comprise those who have poor skills in reading and comprehension. They are those who impose their flawed interpretations of the text on their students.

We do not learn a lot from these teachers. We certainly do not learn very well from them. When we see them in class, we often feel that we are better off reading our books at home or in the library.

Teachers should be able to shed light on specific topics. They should be able to help make sense of what the students are studying. They should be able to help their pupils piece things together. They would not be able to do that—not even if they have a number of postgraduate degrees—if they have poor teaching skills.

Ineffective teachers also include those who fail to keep the attention of the class. They are those who fail to inspire their students to do the best they can. They are those who tell students that it’s absolutely okay to stay mediocre. Lastly, they include teachers who do not know that instilling discipline does not entail brute force. They are teachers who are physically and verbally abusive. Not only do they impede a healthy, safe and effective learning of students; they also retard the students’ growth and development.

Ineffective teachers are not only a problem in public schools but in private schools as well. I had the privilege of going to a private school for my primary, secondary, and tertiary education. I could remember ranting about professors who weren’t any good at teaching (I felt as if the school shortchanged us and our parents). Some weren’t good at explaining things. Some barely gave any input—they just asked the students to do all the reporting in class. In fact, I had a teacher in management accounting who divided us into groups and required us to research and report on all of the topics for the entire semester (I am surprised and disappointed to know that that person is now holding a very important position in CHEd).

I also had a professor in one of my English subjects in college who didn’t seem to know English very well. His grammar was terrible. His word choice and style of writing were awful. He didn’t even know certain English words—in discussing a short story, he concluded that the setting must have been a warzone because the word “canyon” was in the text (he insisted that “canyon” was the large, mounted piece of artillery we often see in movies—he obviously confused it with the word “cannon”).

One thing is true: teachers can greatly affect the quality of education. Even if we draft a brilliant academic curriculum—even we build the best learning facilities, the quality of education would still go down if we continue to have ineffective teachers.

People believe that knowledge, skills, and experience related to the subject matter are important. But they have to realize that skills in communicating these things are equally important. Sending faculty members to a master’s program is a good thing. But this is not an adequate way of developing them into effective teachers. Schools must find ways to develop their teaching skills.

It’s also high time that many institutions pay attention to the academic performance of the student populace as well as the performance of teachers according to the students’ evaluation. They should recognize red flags: a poor rating in the evaluation and poorly performing students. They should not promote those who are ineffective; they should not even retain them.

On the other hand, educational institutions must reward those who are effective at teaching. They can do this by giving them incentives. They can even simply acknowledge brilliant professors as “teachers of the month”. Moreover, schools should start to offer better benefits and wages to those who are thinking about entering the teaching profession and who might actually be adept at teaching.

We need better teachers. They are essential in raising the quality of education in our country. They, along with parents, help shape the minds of students. They help shape the world.
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