“Who dares to teach must never cease to learn.” — John Cotton Dana
The beauty of learning is that it is truly a voluntary process; we cannot force anyone to learn. We can teach and talk, show and explain, but until the student captures truth in his mind, our words as an instructor have little meaning. It is therefore critical for the teacher to become as a student and discover personal motivation for learning to encourage others to do the same. The most influential educators in my life have been those who have challenged and encouraged me, and then wisely stepped back to allow personal discovery. I have found that learning makes me thirsty to learn more; my goal is to create a desire for learning such as this in my students.
An effective teacher must have practical knowledge and insight into the subject. The educator must keep abreast of developments in the field and develop methods to communicate these to the students. Reading current materials on the subject, as well as participating in conferences and workshops, will keep the course material relevant and fresh. I learn from my peers through journals and discussions and glean best practices for leading my class. Business acumen gained from professional work and managerial responsibilities creates opportunities to share experiences in the classroom.
Application is central to true learning. When students are able to validate truths and see relevance, learning happens. Adults learn best when learning builds upon their experience and the knowledge they bring to the class. It is my job to help the students see the connection between what happens in the classroom to what happens outside in the “real world.”
Effective learning skills include problem-solving, comprehension, and critical thinking. Realizing that individuals learn in many different ways, I use various teaching methods to bring topics into focus. In a typical classroom session, the student may solve a puzzle, perform small group work, take a quiz, and discuss a current event. Using cases, scenarios, and real-life examples, business theories move from the abstract to the relevant. Challenging students to think on their own and creating a safe environment where they can voice their ideas is key to engaging even the most hesitant learner.
The global nature of our culture makes effective communication skills essential to success. Helping students develop writing and presentation skills is critical. Good writing and reading go hand-in-hand, and so I encourage the students to read at every opportunity. Timely feedback is a vital role as instructor, and so I use constructive suggestions and offer encouragement.
Adults who return to school are motivated by something: career advancement, better pay, or perhaps a fresh start. If the teacher can discover the student’s motivation and build upon it by being caring and supportive, the student will become an enthusiastic learner. My job is to be a loyal encourager and partner in learning. Motivating students to take responsibility for their own education and helping them find ways to apply it fuels my passion for teaching. It is my great pleasure to have the opportunity to teach, and therefore to learn.
Cynthia J. Wolfe, Ph.D., CSCP, PMP