First I think we need an understanding of what actually is occurring during teaching.
Learning is a communicative event. As any speech therapist can tell you, this means there is a speaker, a listener, and a message. The presumption is that the teacher is the speaker, the student is the listener (we hope 😉 ) and the teaching you are trying to convey is the message. In truth it must be a reciprocal relationship, hence the two arrows in the graphic. The teacher must minimally spend enough time listening to effectively check for understanding, but I am getting ahead of myself.
You can only facilitate learning, not force it.
Just like miscommunication is inevitable, an unwillingness to learn on the part of the student is inevitable. (We’ll discuss why in future posts.)
As a speaker there are certain steps you want to take to try to avoid miscommunication. All these steps hold true for the teacher-speaker.
- Have the listener’s attention – this requires they face you and you face them.
Just because it is officially class time or therapy time does not guarantee you have the listener/student’s attention
- Communicate clearly – This means you first have to know clearly what you want to communicate. While a teacher is trained to write up an objective to their lesson plan, which clarifies what the lesson is trying to communicate, most other “teachers” (as defined in the About This Blog section) don’t learn this valuable tool.
“Communicate clearly” also includes using appropriate level vocabulary and speaking at an appropriate rate. Too often we feel rushed so we speak faster. However, your listener can’t necessarily process faster and may be distracted by the anxiety you are generating in playing “beat the clock”. Better to finish the conversation/lesson another time.
There are a few other tips that should be employed judiciously and not indiscriminately across the board:
- Use non-verbal cues such as diagrams or props. This does not depend on convenience but rather appropriateness. If you want to teach someone to drive a car, a diagram of a car won’t do, you want the prop.
- Repeating yourself in a different way if necessary. You will know when it is necessary by reading your listener’s nonverbal cues and utilizing our last tip…
- Check for understanding –the speaker has the responsibility of ensuring his/her message was received correctly. Here too teachers have this item as a step in lesson planning, and most therapists are checking for accurate application of the lesson taught. This would be more of a pitfall for a parent.
Doesn’t the listener have some responsibility here? Next time…
What are some ways you can check for understanding other than a test?
How can you check each individual in the group?
Why doesn’t “Do you have any questions?” cover this task?