Thursday, February 3, 2011

Classroom noise

Almost all educators are confronted with classroom noises at some or the other time of their teaching career. This is the most common phenomenon prevalent and widespread in most classroom situations. Most consider classroom noise as a threat—a challenge in the teaching process and a hindrance to learning. In any classroom situation, we all expect learners to pay attention to the teacher and what is being presented to them. We all find it

frustrating when students resort to making noise, being oblivious to the classroom activity.

In most situations, we desperately employ a number of strategies to bring down the classroom noise level. It is not uncommon to see a teacher banging repeatedly on the desk/board/table to draw the students’ attention in the classroom. Equally, it may sometimes mean shouting harshly to the whole class for silence or pleading before the students to remain quiet. Furthermore, we may strongly feel to re-state the consequences loudly and clearly to the students.

Further down the line, in grave situations mostly, we may think of sending a single noisy student out of the class for him/her to remain in isolation. We still may like to punish one or two students in front of everyone present in a class by criticizing excessively or opting for physical punishment in an attempt to generate the fear factor to suppress noise. We may equally think of even taking the help of modern technology such as CCTV or spy cam straight into a classroom to record the students’ behaviors expecting to track the noisy students and get rid of the noise easily since these wonderful devices are smart enough to create enormous fear among learners and make them act or behave altogether in total silence without much effort!

Teaching mainly involves two-fold activity of knowing the content well and skills to deliver the same successfully to the learners. Most of our teaching is teacher-centered, which means it is greatly controlled, didactic and prescriptive in nature. Therefore, teaching and learning to be meaningful must be made learner-centered where teachers actually take the role of facilitators that highly involves the learners in actual learning process through various real activities in a classroom.

It is, therefore, inevitable for educators like us to employ multiple teaching strategies to make the learning meaningful among diverse kinds of learners in a classroom.

It has been seen that we mostly focus on mistakes or weaknesses of our learners for planning our teaching strategies. We generally highlight and amplify a weakness that has been made by a student either by criticizing repeatedly or by highlighting with red ink.

We have to realize that individuals and organizations where humans are involved get superior results from appreciating strengths, assets, and high point experiences instead of focusing on weaknesses and problems.

It is almost sure for a class to become noisy if we attend it without careful planning. Improper planning is evident when we change lessons without any logical connections or move too fast or too slow.

It is very important that we believe all learners are capable of learning and everyone has the potential to achieve excellence. Some learn fast while few others are slow. Still, all can learn things. In cases where few don’t learn or fail to show interest over time, it may be because the strategy, approach and procedures used are not appropriate for the particular learner or group of learners or due to poor relationship between educators and the learners.

Similarly, educators and teachers need to have a strong belief that learning is a lifelong process. Teachers should believe that we all are capable of learning but we all learn differently. Attention should be paid on the efforts put forward by the learners rather than on the perfection because we all learn from our mistakes. Appreciation must be offered for the efforts made by students rather than wait for perfection. Furthermore, students may have personal problems that might have distracted them from participating meaningfully in a class. A teacher needs to find out and offer help whenever required to cope up with students’ personal problems. This would mean the teachers to become fully aware about an individual learner, understanding his needs, understanding his emotional, social and mental and physical status and his limitations.

The teaching methods and techniques alone do not make a class effective. Teaching and learning to be effective also highly depends on many other factors such as education approach adopted, strong beliefs and values on education, relationship and rapport with learners, strategy used for delivering lessons, classroom management styles, resources available and understanding learners. It is, therefore, an important task for teachers like us to reflect on our own teaching activities, examine our values and beliefs, system for educating students, methods and approaches we have adopted and the kind of relationship we have built with our learners.

Singh is Principal, Ace HS School, Kathmandu
source: THT, 4 feb 2011