Research in education has proved that the more the learners discuss issues pertaining to the content that they study, the easier it becomes for them to master the concepts. The system where the teacher talks most of the time does not adequately cater for the needs of the learners. For effective learning to take place, teachers are supposed to strike a balance between their talk time and that of the students.
I have observed that when teachers get obsessed with the subject content, they consider themselves as authorities in their subjects and whenever they enter the classroom, they talk endlessly thinking that the students are able to follow. However, they always get surprised to realise that many of their students fail to score good grades in the examinations. In most cases, learners simply watch the teacher as he keeps talking. Teaching is a form of empowerment whereby learners are supposed to be given space to internalise the content and share views as they study.
Shortcomings of too much talking
When the teacher dominates the lesson by talking too much, he cripples the learners’ ability to develop communication skills. In such a situation, learners just keep listening and they do not develop abilities to express themselves in line with what they study. If they listen to the teacher most of the time, they cannot confidently discuss the questions about a given subject. The situation is even made worse in English language lessons where learners are taught the rules of grammar and structure but they may not be able to speak the language fluently. You cannot learn a language without participating actively in speaking it.
In lessons where the teacher talks most of the time, there is monotony and the students get bored. The attention span of some young people is low and when the teacher dominates the talking, such learners simply switch off and they just stare at him. At the end of the lesson, the teacher feels satisfied that he has completed a given topic but when learners have not grasped most of the concepts given the fact that they were passive in the lesson.
The lecture method encourages spoon feeding of students by the teacher and this implies that learners perceive him as the sole provider of knowledge. They consider the teacher as the giver of content and they regard themselves as mere receivers of knowledge. In that case, many of them suffer from dependence syndrome and they cannot do research ahead of lessons or even analyse the content because they know that everything is presented to them by the teacher. Therefore, the spirit of self-initiative is hampered.
How to encourage learners to participate
Various education researchers acknowledge the need for teachers to create room for learners to talk adequately in class as a way of addressing their learning needs. The following are some of the strategies that teachers may adopt to facilitate effective learning.
Emphasis should be put on the use of pair and group work activities. When students work with their peers, they learn with enthusiasm. Such activities keep them engaged in the learning process and they end up talking much more than their teacher. They are also able to develop several skills in communication, teamwork, leadership, creativity, organisation and critical thinking. The teacher’s role is to introduce the content, give instructions, ask questions and clarify on certain contentious issues. He also guides the learners on how to work in pairs or groups. What is important is for the teacher to know the group dynamics. He may mix high achievers with low achievers so that the latter are helped by the former to improve on their knowledge and skills. In some cases, the high achievers may work separately from the low achievers as long as the high achievers are given more challenging tasks than the rest.
Thereafter, each group selects someone to present their work to the whole class. At the end of each presentation, the class reacts as a way of supplementing or pointing out the weak aspects. The teacher guides the class by giving clarification where it is necessary.
The teacher may also adopt a system where different groups are given different tasks depending on what he wants to achieve in the lesson. After the first round of the group discussions, one member from each group acts as an ambassador for the group and he or she visits another group and shares what his or her group has discussed. This method enables students to speak adequately and they are able to share a lot of information.
During lesson time, teachers should always ask open-ended questions which require learners to give detailed answers after thinking critically. Questions such as ‘why’ and ‘how’ compel learners to speak more in class.
I believe that if teachers give learners sufficient talk time in class, the quality of learners produced by the various learning institutions will improve significantly.
The writer is an English Language Instructor at Akilah Institute for Women.