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How to Become an Excellent Tertiary-Level Teacher - page 8 / 16





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skill  areas  specified  in  the  recent  Dearing Report  (NCIHE, 1997)  -  knowledge  and understanding,  key (transferable process) skills, (higher) cognitive skills and subject-specific skills.  As a result of using the templates, staff have been able to match the learning outcomes of specific course units to the stages of the course at which the units are taught much more effectively than in the past.  All good lecturers should try to do likewise.

It is also important that lecturers should let their students know what is expected of them, preferably before they embark on the course, course unit or activity to which the targets relate (Race, 1999).  Students have a right to know their learning targets, and, by providing them with this information in as much detail as possible, you can make a very significant contribution to ensuring that the learning targets are in fact achieved.  This is particularly important in the case of competence-based courses, where students have to demonstrate their competence by meeting the requirements of specified performance indicators (Percival, et.al., 1993).

Setting clearly-defined student learning targets is also of considerable help to the staff who have to teach a course or course unit.  First, they help to define the general direction of the course or curriculum and indicate the sort of material that should be covered.  Then, they give some guidance as to what teaching/learning methods should be employed (see Golden Rule 3).  Finally, they are of considerable assistance in planning assessment procedures (see Golden Rule 4).

If you want to become an excellent teacher, make yourself thoroughly familiar with the basic principles of producing clear, effective student learning targets - in whatever form they are required to be written in the courses you have to teach.  The booklet on ‘Specifying the Outcomes of Student Learning’ by Ellington and Earl (1996b) provides a fairly comprehensive introduction to the associated theory, as well as detailed guidelines on how to put the theory into practice.  More detailed treatment can be found in Mager, 1962 (still well worth reading) and Walker, 1994.

Golden Rule 3 : Use appropriate teaching/learning methods

Once you have established your student learning targets, thought should be given as to what particular mix of teaching/learning methods would be most suitable for helping your students to achieve these various outcomes.  Note that a good teacher will always choose their teaching/learning methods to match their learning targets - not, as is so often the case, the other way round!  (Percival, et.al., 1993).

When doing so, remember that different teaching/learning methods are best suited to achieving different types of learning outcomes.  The lecture, for example, is most suitable for presenting basic facts and principles - and not really suitable for helping students to develop high-order cognitive skills such as analysis, evaluation or problem-solving, or communication and interpersonal skills (Race and Brown, 1998;  Horgan, 1999).  To develop such skills effectively, you will need to use more active teaching/learning

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