Does it ring a bell? Sometimes you end up discovering that your efforts and hard work were not enough for your students. If you are a school teacher, you most probably get to know about the issue through your former students’ new teacher or, because your new students make the same complaint about their former teacher.
This may happen to school teachers or to teachers who work at language institutions, where students change teachers every year. For private tutors, the issue may arise when the students quit for no clear reason.
You feel disappointed and may even ask yourself, what’s the point? What happened to all the efforts you devoted to:
- preparing the lessons
- delivering the lessons
- preparing the following lesson based on how the last one worked
- searching for new resources to motivate your students
- searching for new approaches to teaching the topic to those learners who didn’t get it
- preparing different types of evaluation and correcting them
- setting up a good classroom atmosphere where every learner feels secure and appreciated
- Etc., etc., etc., etc…..?
Well, maybe you are doing too much. Yes! You are doing too much.
How come? Well, last year I researched how high school students learn English as an L2 beyond the class (not published yet) and one of the findings was that:
What most students need in order to learn is to have a demanding teacher.
Does it sound odd? Well, in fact, it is not a new idea. Vygotsky claimed a long time ago that to learn a person must go beyond his/her current level of knowledge/competency/proficiency. If a person is always in his/her ‘comfort zone’ (sort to speak), no learning is possible. Learning occurs when the person is ‘forced’ to go beyond what he/she already knows (Zone of Proximal Development); in any other case, he/she would be just practising with his/her previous learning.
In the field of SLA, Krashen uses the idea of comprehensible input to explain how learning takes place. Learners should be exposed to input which is a bit further from their current level of knowledge to learn.
Your students won’t probably tell you that they want you to be demanding because they feel comfortable doing what they already know, but you may try talking to your former students in an informal setting asking them for their feedback on your teaching.
Besides, as important as learning is that students feel they have learned so they will feel confident about using the L2 and motivated to learn more.
However, how can a student feel that he/she has learned if nothing new is presented to him/her? What is new may be different to different students, so checking their prior knowledge is essential to offer the right challenge for each learner.
If you teach large classes, what you expect from all the learners may be the starting point, then you can suggest more challenging activities or contents for more advanced students. Let them choose their own learning path offering additional resources as needed.
If you need more ideas, you can watch Jim Scrivener’s talk Demand High
Have you ever been through this experience? Share your thoughts with us!