the art of teaching

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    The Art of Teaching


    Abstract-Effective teaching for effective learning is of basicconcern to everyone involved in the process of teaching. Yet, areminder is often necessary to focus attention upon objectivesand techniques to achieve such effectiveness.Points of views are presented to stimulate concern with the

    teaching function. These views are attempts to summarize a vastbody of literature generated by individual efforts and groupefforts. In this regard, special mention should be made of theinitiatives being exerted by the American Society for EngineeringEducation through its regional Workshops on Effective Teach-ing to promote awareness, an initiative which began in 1960 as aSummer Institute.

    INTRODUCTIONC ICERO, about twenty centuries ago, stated-"Not

    only is there an art in knowing a thing, but also acertain art in teaching it"-and we are still uncer-

    tain about that "certain art of teaching."Curiously, little time has been spent in academic circles

    discussing the techniques and refinements of that art oreven defining it satisfactorily-although it is well recog-nized that the prime responsibility of every college profes-sor should be to motivate effective learning in the class-room and in the laboratory.

    Ideally, the college professor should seek to establish apositive contact between each student and himself. Heshould apply a variety of techniques all aimed toward stim-ulating understanding and creative attitudes. He should bemindful at all times of the importance of motivation, rein-forcement, evaluation, and feedback in the process oflearning.

    In former years college degrees were supposed, in somemiraculous manner, to qualify one for teaching. Now it isevident that knowledge of subject matter alone does notprovide complete qualifications. Very often a good scholarfinds himself unable to win and hold his students, to in-spire and challenge them. Indeed, the need for free discus-sion to motivate teaching effectiveness has been long ne-glected.

    College teachers seem to be involved in a very strangeprofession. It might be called the "hidden profession" be-cause it is practiced as a secret rite behind closed doors andnever alluded to in polite academic society. Why is it thatin any faculty gathering you will frequently hear a groupof experts arguing about their subject, but almost neverabout the best way of teaching it?

    It is really strange that there are professors who neverbother to study teaching as a skilled process and very often

    Manuscript received June 17, 1970.The author is with Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn, Brooklyn,


    oppose programs for achieving good teaching, the assump-tion being that effective teaching cannot be taught. Such aninsidious attitude is difficult to understand. The quality ofteaching as a whole would certainly improve if members ofthe academic teaching profession took a more direct atti-tude toward their teaching, and if they discussed the artand its techniques freely, and if they invited others to criti-cize their own work.As we attempt to answer the question-"How Effective

    am I as a Teacher ?"-we soon learn that effectiveness var-ies from year to year and from class to class. This factgives urgent rise to the need for reinterpretation, reevalua-tion, reexamination, and reconstruction of content andprocedure. It is this urge for intense absorption towardbetter performance that keeps the good teacher alert andalive.Each one of us has experienced the stimulation that

    comes with challenging instruction. But to analyze the situ-ation and extract those qualities that made it memorable isindeed difficult. In essence, there is no one way to teachand no one way to learn. The proper method depends onthe character of the teacher, the class, and the subject, andeach teacher must find out with reference to each class, andeach subject, and indeed each part of the subject, what isfor him his best method.

    THE TEACHER SPEAKSBasic to teaching is speaking. Your ideas are transmitted

    as words with your voice. Through your voice, you alsoindicate whether you are bored, tired, irritated, impatient,and indifferent. This is particularly true when you are un-der stress. At that moment, you may unwittingly convey aspirit of anger, dislike, or irritation with your voice, farfrom the impression you intended. However, students donot ask for reasons or motives. They interpret the commu-nication as it takes place at the moment, reflecting the neg-ative attitude toward the subject or toward them. On theother hand, a warm, confident, friendly, pleasant voicearouses a positive response.

    If you talk too slowly, the student, who can listen muchfaster than you utter your words, becomes bored or dis-tracted and his mind wanders. On the other hand, if youtalk too rapidly, you are likely to slur your words so thatthe student is unable to understand them. Ordinarily, oneshould speak approximately 140 to 160 words a minute.

    If you are talking to classes of 40 or more students, youshoul(d use a microphone. It is easier for everyone to hearyou, takes less effort on your part, and allows you to bemore conversational and get greater variety in your speech.A lavaliere microphone is best for this purpose.



    In speaking, you can move as much as you wish as longas you do not move the same way all the time. You canmove from side to side of the room. You can lean against atable or lectern. You can sit on the table, as long as you donot sit there all the time. A general rule, however, is tomove if there is a change in content.Use your hands to show size, shape, direction, or capac-

    ity. There is no pattern, plan, or rule for gesturing. Gener-ally, you cannot gesture too much. But use your hands in aspontaneous manner, not jerky, nervous movements thatmean nothing and distract from your effectiveness. Thisshould be almost an unconscious gesture, not taught, notplanned, not learned but a reflection of what you are say-ing.Nobody likes a sphinx. Even though the material you

    are talking about is objective and not of an emotional na-ture, you are still talking to human beings who have feel-ings and likes or dislikes. So, smile'! Show enthusiasm andfriendliness. Smile, frown, or even sneer at the material ifthe content lends itself to it. Laugh once in a while. Goodteachers are much more inclined to smile appreciativelythan poor teachers.To summarize, effective teachers speak in a logical and

    well-organized manner rather than a rambling or disorga-nized one. They clearly indicate the central points and ade-quately support them with illustrations and examples.They use language the student can understand. The effec-tive teachers' deliveries are direct, confident, lively,friendly, and conversational and are accompanied by ap-propriate actions of the body, arms, and head and yet freefrom distracting movements.

    THE LECTURE AS A METHOD OF TEACHINGCollege teaching and lecturing have been associated with

    each other so long that when one pictures a professor in aclassroom almost inevitably the picture is one of a lecturer.Small wonder, though, because so few college teachers re-ceive any orientation or training in teaching methods. Con-sequently, they very likely resort to copying what theyhave observed most of their lives as students, namely thelecture. This method might be termed a comfortable onefor most instructors because it is familiar to them and alsobecause it provides for careful planning in advance, forcontrol over almost every class session, and for a minimumchance of being put on the spot.The ability to lecture well is a skill which many can de-

    velop if they are convinced of its validity. As already men-tioned, it involves such matters as skill in voice control,modulation, enunciation, projection posture, and gesturing,all of which come unider the heading of skill in delivery. Inaddition, it involves techniques of gaining and holding at-tention; of stimulating and inspiring; of informing, con-vincing, and prodding to action; of commanding participa-tion in the process of stimulating thought by challengingcreative applications and by making the class session andthe course and meaningful and rewarding experience for astudent.

    In preparing a lecture session, the following prescriptionis recommended:

    1) Before assembling for class: a) be aware of the natureof human needs and motive, b) determine the purpose of thelecture, c) be prepared with a lesson plan.

    2) In class: a) indicate what you expect to accomplish, b)make your presentation, c) hold attention, d) maintainflexibility and spontaneity, e) ask questions, f) summarizeyour conclusions.

    In lecturing, the teacher should wear the cloak of humil-ity if he hopes to establish rapport and to communicatewith his students. Any superiority that he may actuallyhave should be manifestedl in the content of his lecture, notin his personal attitudes.

    In asking questions, he will compliment wherever andwhenever he can. He will temper necessary criticism withpatience and understanding. He will never ridicule. Hewill respect even the less well-endowed student as an indi-vidual, knowing that his lack of intellectual capacity is nofault of his own. The wise instructor will recognize that itis often the need for a sense of personal worth that makesthe student make audacious statements, draw prematureconclusions with an absoluteness that is sometimes admira-ble, and be more intent on winning an argument than ondiscovering a fact.Use questions to stimulate interest, encourage student

    participation, clarify understanding, spot-check the effec-tiveness of your lecture, and maintain attention. Your pur-pose is to stimulate the student's thinki