In primary school I hated mathematics; it was the one subject that made me feel dumb. It’s commonly said that if you had to read in primary school for exams then you must be dumb, yes, because the subjects were so easy. That wasn’t my case I read in primary school, I took my books seriously but the one subject I dreaded was mathematics, it was the one subject that made me miss out on double promotion to primary 6 from primary 4 (yea while my mates went on to primary 6 I had move on to primary 5, I remember crying a lot those times).
Unlike other subjects I never really got the logic behind maths , my curiosity as a child always wanted to understand why and how things came to be (yep was one of those children that asked a lot of ‘stupid’ questions). When I observed that there was a limit to stupid questions in class I learnt the next best thing cramming, crammed the timetable, homework and exercises so that I could pass. My little mind had taught me to forget logic and when I remember the long whip Uncle Jude our teacher (not real name) held I would shudder especially after missing out on the promotion.
With time I out grew that (an entirely different blog post for later).
Many of you born at my time can relate to this, at some point walking through the education system, you actually felt very inadequate not because you weren’t smart but because you never could understand what the teacher was saying in class. More like your teacher doesn’t get you, you don’t understand but you can’t ask for a number of reasons. One is being called ‘stupid’.
There has been a steady decline in learning outcomes of students this is reflected by the senior school-leaving certificate examination in Nigeria (WAEC) as at 2014 a 31.2 % below average. A large portion of the fault has been appropriated to student’s laziness which I don’t entirely agree with. Ask a regular high school student in your community what his classes are like and if he is enjoying it he would say ‘I get bored in class because I don’t understand my teacher, all we ever do is write notes, and when it’s time for exams, I cram because it’s until I give him (teacher) back what was taught word for word there is no assurance I would pass’.
The learning outcomes is beyond grades or certificates, etc. its more about how students can translate knowledge gained in the classroom and apply it to everyday living. It’s about grasping the underlying principle of a subject and applying it in various scenarios. Hence, we can’t confidently say our students have learnt by high performances in exams alone until we see how they apply this knowledge – an approach that hasn’t been really integrated into our educational system.
Teachers are on the frontline when it comes to driving quality learning (outcomes). They are the drivers of how the curriculum is taught, they are important in this process. There are a few things teachers have to understand to improve learning outcomes of students:
Why is the subject important? What key role is it going to play in the life of my students? What key things is he/she going to learn? How does the subject integrate into their everyday lives? Asking these questions gives more meaning to the subject, more like a purpose attachment. It also affects your psychology as a teacher when delivering; as you do it not because it’s the standard requirement but because you actually believe in the benefits of that subject to your students.
What are the tools of delivery, will the pedagogy involve watching videos, class discussions and research work? Which of these methods get your students most excited? Taking into consideration the tools and methods of delivery that works best for your class helps you (as teacher) a whole lot.
Do you know your students? Have you taken time to assess how they learn, think, what goes through their minds? This seems like a lot of work because as a teacher you have your own life. Knowing your students help you pick the best practice to teach. You can’t separate the learner from the learning process, understanding your students learning style can’t be belittled.
Share your views
What do you think teachers should do better to improve student’s learning outcomes?