The expectation of every teacher is that all their students grasp the concept taught in class; but how can they make sure this is achieved? Education experts say as a teacher, making deliberate and well-thought out strategies on how to ensure all students get what is being taught could play an important part in determining how academically successful learners become. This implies that teachers should have extra skills to ensure that each and every student in their class is engaged in whatever they are teaching. This way, there is high possibility that both slow and fast learners alike will be able to grasp something from the day’s lesson.
Dr Alphonse Uworwabayeho, a lecturer at University of Rwanda’s College of Education, says the teaching strategies to make your students understand depend on the level of education.
“The techniques to use for nursery kids, will definitely differ from those for students at primary, secondary or university levels. For instance, at the beginning of a teaching module, a lecturer should provide outlines, objectives, scope of content, as well as assessment process to the students in higher education institutions. However, the approach for children in nursery or primary school should be different,” he says.
This, he says, boosts the student’s understanding and helps them grasp something from the topic being taught as they have been prepared psychologically to know what to expect.
Also, giving time to students to read and work in small groups prior to a new lesson help them to review and connect what has been taught previously to the new topic.
When introducing a new topic to students, Uworwabayeho says tasking them to research about it in groups or as individuals ahead of the lesson gives them a firm background of what they should expect, making them more prepared, thus boosting their understanding.
He adds that as mathematics teacher, he always gives students more time to work on exercises which later he uses to find out their strengths and weakness, emphasising that this is the key in helping all of his students understand concepts.
For Felicien Ngiruwonsanga, the in charge of Edified Generation at Imbuto Foundation, where they financially support secondary school students who hail from economically vulnerable backgrounds to pursue their education, finding out the challenges faced by students outside school is essential as the teacher is able to work out the best teaching model suited to these cases.
“Every year, we hold holiday camps where apart from just imparting life skills and positive values and attitudes to make these students grow into well-rounded citizens, we also help them in solving their challenges since most of them have been victims of circumstances beyond their control,” he says.
Ngiruwonsanga says this is just one of the strategies to help them to become successful in their lives, including academics, noting that this can be seen in the way they perform after getting help through counseling and guidance.
On the other hand, Anastase Muhayimana, a computer and science teacher at GS Gakoro in Musanze District, believes that making movements around the class as one teaches keeps all students attentive and alert.
“There are those students who prefer sitting at the back of the class to do their own stuff as the teacher is busy in front teaching, especially in congested classes. Moving around will help a teacher get control of the entire class,” he says.
Muhayimana, however, advises that teachers should avoid using ‘hard’ words but rather opt for simple words for their students to understand.
Group work is important as it improves the whole social integration of students, according to Muhayimana.
“Working as a team for any student improves their understanding level as they are able to share different ideas freely. This collaboration is not only helpful in school work but also in their communities,” he says.
Muhayimana adds that encouraging learners to openly point out what they think they don’t understand or can’t do it is also a good strategy as the teacher is able to get the whole class engaged in that day’s lesson.
Francine Gahongayire, a Kigali-based counselor and tutor, is of the view that teaching while giving examples, ranging from real life, day-to-day situations speaks volumes when it comes to students understanding.
“As a teacher, showing them how they can apply the knowledge being taught in class in other areas makes students eager to go out and try what they have. This increases their understanding level and leads to memorisation rather than cramming to pass exams,” she says.
According to an online education portal, edutopia.org, students should be given the opportunity to plan and organise, monitor their own work, direct their own learning, and to self-reflect along the way. Provide students with time and space to be aware of their own knowledge and their own thinking, boosts student ownership.
“Learning from students is equally essential. Effective teaching refuses to take its effect on students for granted. It sees the relation between teaching and learning as problematic, uncertain and relative. Good teaching is open to change: it involves constantly trying to find out what the effects of instruction are on learning, and modifying the instruction in the light of the evidence collected.”
A recent research published by Prof Robert Coe from Durham University, UK, a teacher’s professional behaviour, including supporting colleagues and talking with parents, has a moderate impact on students’ learning. The research showed that there may not be a direct link with these practices and student achievement, but to capture a broad definition of good teaching they should be included.
Prof Coe also notes that the best teachers have a deep knowledge of their subject, and if that falls below a certain point it has a “significant impact” on students’ learning.
“Targeted help for teachers, giving them an understanding of particular areas where their knowledge is weak, could be effective,” he adds.