Teachers today find themselves in a dilemma; they have to make sure learners are active throughout a lesson, and that they participate in the various activities offered.
Educationists urge that for instructors to be able to keep their learners hooked to whatever they are teaching, they should make students participate in the process of learning through discussions, practice and presentation.
What should teachers focus on?
Eliaza Ndayisabye, a disciplinary teacher at Mother Mary Complex School in Kibagabaga, says today’s generation is a lot different from previous ones. Children are exposed to technology that is “more fun than sitting in class and listening to an instructor.”
On this note, he says teachers ought to abolish the traditional styles of teaching, and embrace new trends that will keep the class motivated and lively.
“For instance, there are teachers who still expect their students to sit in a class for several hours listening to them and taking in the information presented to them,” he says.
Fredrick Karakire, a lecturer in Kigali, says that some instructors make learning boring, and that they do not fully exhaust the ability of learners.
He points out that a class is meant to be lively and inspiring, pulling learners to school on a daily basis. Students should be acquainted with the material, collaborate with each other, and participate in class.
“The problem is expecting learners to simply listen and memorise. Instead, we should help them demonstrate, analyse an argument and apply a concept to a real life situation,” he says.
Joyce Nyirahabizana, a career guidance teacher at GS Nkondo in Kayonza District, believes that the education system should focus on meeting learners’ needs.
He says that it starts with active learning and hands-on management as well as integrated assessments, which can promote or constitute total understanding or a better learning outcome.
“I think it’s time for learning to be an experience divided in projects, workshops and research,” she says.
She, however, points out that student interests should be at the core of designing such learning processes. Integrated assessment should then be the ultimate goal to show knowledge and skill development.
Nyirahabizana says that today’s education should be beyond just exams or questioning students. It should be an experience that promotes research and applicability of what is being and has been taught, as this, according to her, is where we are going to develop a generation of learners that “do things.”
According to research carried out by University of Washington, USA, engaging students in the learning process increases their attention and focus; it motivates them to practice higher-level critical thinking skills and promotes meaningful learning experiences.
The research further indicates that instructors who adopt a student-centred approach to instruction increase opportunities for student engagement, which then helps everyone more successfully to achieve the course’s learning objectives.
The impact to the learner
Funny Umwali, a university graduate and young entrepreneur in Kigali, says that if teachers embrace this kind of teaching, it could lead to a generation of innovators and entrepreneurial minds that can transform the future of our country.
Umwali says that active participation of students in the learning environment can help them do well, and not just in academics, but also responsibility outside the school environment.
“With the ability to make their own decisions regarding what they learn and how they use that knowledge, students will feel more valuable and aim higher even after school,” she says.
Emmanuel Ndayambaje, the director at Rwinkwavu Library in Kayonza District, Eastern Province, says that this kind of system also increases a student’s engagement levels.
“Students’ involvement in the development of classroom activities, like allowing them to choose the topic they want to discuss, or letting them generate ideas on how a concept can be applied to a problem, will improve their critical thinking; a skill that can be applied outside the school environment,” he explains.
He says that active learning requires them to assess their understanding and skills, which forces them to develop a deeper understanding of what they are being taught.
Ndayambaje says that when teachers actively involve their classroom in the learning process, they are in a better position to experience improved results in their students’ overall performance.
“Ideally, the goal of encouraging participation is not to have every student participate in the same way, or at the same rate. Instead, it is to create an environment in which all participants have the opportunity to learn, and in which the class explores issues and ideas in depth,” he says.
This, he says, makes all learners ‘move together’ as a class in terms of understanding. It also helps them become independent and not rely on their teachers for everything.
Ndayisabye says students who lack these skills will have issues, especially when it comes to completing academic activities that involve problem-solving, like math or other comprehension activities.
“The same case applies when they are out there; such students fail to tackle or handle simple tasks that need critical thinking. The skills are also the key to solving learning challenges,” he adds.
When providing students with cognitive skills or engaging them in activities that make them lively, Karakire says teachers should not ignore the academic subjects.
“In fact, it’s through this that these skills help learners read, think, prioritise, understand, plan, remember, and solve problems that come their way,” he says.
Therefore, he says it’s important to engage students in activities that will help them currently and long-term; skills they will be able to apply in the workforce after school.
Parents share their views
Grace Murengerantwali says teachers should learn how to adjust to a learner’s needs. She points out that in most cases, some children opt to stay at home and get information from the Internet, especially university students, because they find the classroom boring.
“I think finding ways to ensure that students are motivated is important. With this, I believe schools will be able to produce individuals who will be in the position to compete in the labour market,” Murengerantwali says.
John Muhoza feels that parents should be in the position to support their children, especially when it comes to providing them with the necessary materials needed for learning.
“Depending on the financial status of a parent, I think it is better to provide students with everything they need as far as education is concerned. This will help students stay focused in class and participate in all activities without worrying about missing any scholastic materials,” he says.
Murengerantwali adds that active learning should be integrated in various age groups so that students are able to get the right skills from the beginning.
Students share their views
I think what teachers are missing when it comes to academic work is that they don’t interact with their students. They assume each and everyone is ready to learn while in real sense, some students may have issues or ideas they would like to share before the lesson.
Aloice Kabanda, student at University of Kigali
Teachers should always think positively about their students, and have right attitude towards them too. This alone is the precursor to having an attentive class always. Besides, students should also be willing to take up the role given to them by their teachers.
Freedom kabarere, law student
Because most of teachers have been using analog way of teaching for a long time, and that’s what they are used to, I think there is a need to help them get trained or guided on how to go digital in order to keep learners motivated.
Juliana Mutoni, fourth year engineering student
I believe teachers should be in a position to understand that effective learning emerges from situations, in which one builds understanding based upon personal experiences. With this, I think there will be conducive environment for every learner.
Emma Nshizirungu, University graduate