The Art And Practice Of Teaching – A Review

In one hundred and forty eight pages, the writer focuses on the Christian education approach to teaching. The first chapter stresses the intentional, holistic, change-oriented and God-centered goals, with a very strong emphasis on the latter as the student is transformed. After discussing the characteristics of the effective teacher, he emphasizes that teachers must realize that the power of their example is very critical in effecting quality change in the lives of their students.

Using Jesus as the model or Master Teacher, the writer highlights, among other things, His maturity, mastery, certainty, humility, consistency, spontaneity, clarity, urgency, variety and sensitivity. It is the responsibility of the teacher, he argues, to motivate, stimulate and encourage participation. He does not only expose the behavior of an ineffective teacher but suggests useful ways to handle him. Chapter two discusses the importance of setting learning objectives to the teaching which needs planning. The preparation of cognitive, affective and behavioral objectives give a holistic approach to Christian education. Specified levels of learning, defined terms and examples given all present their relevance and show how the teacher can write lesson objectives. Chapter three directs attention to the learners listing and explaining four learning styles which include the dynamic activist, imaginative, reflector, analytical theorist and the common sense pragmatist. Chapters four to seven deal with teaching the younger and older children, teenager and adult since learning is a life-long process. Four steps in planning a lesson for younger children follow the discussion on the characteristics of this age group. They include setting the objectives, studying the learning styles, sensing the senses and selecting the methods. Although the same stages were used, relevant learning characteristics are described in relation to the older children and teenage in chapters five and six respectively. The same planning steps are suggested for the adult in chapter seven after the debate on definition. Three modern western approaches to adult learning (self-directed learning, critical reflection and experiential learning) are discussed which the writer believes must be adapted to the African contexts. The discussion on classroom management in chapter eight is very important since this comprehensive term includes disciplinary actions, daily routines, seating arrangement and scheduling of lesions. Consequently, after analyzing four approaches (friendship, authoritative, permissive and authoritarian), the writer is of the opinion that the authoritarian approach (which positively reinforces good behavior and deals firmly with unacceptable conduct) is the best for classroom discipline.

The excellence in planning and preparation, lesson preparation, relationships and personalities constitute the four categories of excellence that the teacher needs to adopt as professional standards in chapter nine where the emphasis lies on evaluating and improving one’s teachings. A major indicator of the teacher’s effectiveness is his personality. Since students looks for a credible and authentic teacher, the latter must ensure that his/her teaching is improved. How do we know that students are learning? In answering this question in chapter ten, the writer explains the educational, administrative and motivational reasons for the effective use of assessment. Two reliable and valid guidelines are presented as characteristics of good assessment. The importance of not relying on one test to judge a student’s performance is noted and a recommendation is made of the continuous assessment.

A realistic assessment of the need to assess students by other means is presented. Issues like clear instructions, availability, objectivity and co-operative or individual work must be considered when the student prepares assignments. Eighteen types of assignments are discussed. An implication is that the teacher should keep complete and accurate records. In assessing higher education, vital issues like the correct style for foot noting, end noting and plagiarism are also discussed. Four major types of objective questions (true/false, matching, multiple-choice and sentence completion questions), their concepts, steps in preparing and examples are outlined in chapter thirteen where the teacher is warned to note that interests and biases can negatively influence the setting of these questions.

Admitting the difficulty of assessing and grading students (especially subject assessment), the writing proposes ways of setting and marking questions. Examples of the short essay question and the more formal essay and guidelines for writing good essay questions are given. In order to assist in understanding them, these guidelines are used to evaluate weaknesses of ten essay questions. Chapter fourteen presents the layout of marking schemes for subjective and objective questions. Although subjective marking guides are more difficult, the writer assists the teacher to develop a scheme which, if followed, could help maintain consistency in marking. The writer argues in the conclusion that since teaching is a service, it should be directed at the fulfillment of the learners and not the teacher. It is expected that the learners are equipped to carry in their hearts, hands and minds Christian truths in a dying world.

The writer’s emphasis on the teachers’ responsibility of self development is in consonance with the law of the teacher which states that one stops teaching in the future when he stops growing in the present. The teaching methods he proffers for the imaginative reflector, analytical theorizers, common sense pragmatists and dynamic activists is a very useful attempt to illustrate their relationship.

A major criticism could be the presentation of the three areas of the personality that need to be developed at several portions of the book without directly referring to Benjamin Bloom who developed the taxonomy of educational objectives.

Areas of insight include the far flung or very wide range of types of governments, papers and projects, issues raised under the heading ‘focus points’ at the end of each chapter, approaches to teach at all levels, approaches to discipline and ways in which the teacher can improve him/herself.