by Mike McHugh
Home school instructors would do well to keep the following principles in mind as they approach the teaching process. Contrary to the view of some within the home school movement, even teachers at home must follow certain time-tested teaching rules. Ten key principles of learning are listed below.
- All students are created by God with the capacity to learn. Although abilities vary among students, and some may have more aptitude in one subject than another, every child should be challenged to reach his or her maximum potential. The surest way for any student to fail to reach his potential, is for teachers to neglect to set as high a goal for academic achievement as possible.
- Students who can not summarize or demonstrate what they have learned, have probably not achieved sufficient mastery of the required subject matter. The most reliable indicator that a student has adequately learned a given body of knowledge, is when the student can accurately explain the key facts of the lesson to his teacher.
- Students should get prompt feedback on the results of their work. They should know if and when they are comprehending a given set of facts as soon as possible, so that they can spend most of their time concentrating on performing their assignment correctly.
- Whenever possible, teachers should present subject matter with learning increments that begin with less complex concepts and proceed to more complex aspects of the lesson. When learning increments are too large, the learner will often fail to grasp key concepts that are crucial to a true understanding of their lesson. When learning increments are too small, the teaching process becomes tedious and boring.
- When students fail to attain mastery of the subject matter they are studying, they should have the subject matter presented to them again. The second presentation, however, should not be a mere repetition of what was presented the first time. Not only should the second presentation have fresh content, but it should also have smaller learning increments with more time allowed for mastery.
- Students learn by doing. More learning takes place when students actively participate in comprehending or solving the details of a particular lesson. Active learning involves hands-on personal instruction that requires continuous responses from the student. Passive learning is when a student only listens to or observes the lesson with minimal interaction with the teacher.
- Students must be taught in such a manner that they are regularly urged to take ownership over their own learning. Children must not be constantly spoon fed, for the true role of the teacher is that of a facilitator and mentor in the process of learning. How easy it is to forget that the ultimate responsibility for learning rests with the student, not the teacher.
- Learning is not simply taught, it is also caught. Teachers who fail to demonstrate a genuine interest in the subject matter they are teaching will likely fail to motivate or inspire their students to pursue excellence in their assignments. For better or worse, students will often adopt the habits and attitudes that they see exhibited by their teachers. If the teacher is not motivated to teach with a positive, enthusiastic demeanor, then such a one will be unlikely to produce students who are willing to pursue their studies diligently.
- Teachers must inspect what they expect. The achievement or comprehension level of students must be monitored on a regular basis. Home school teachers must not shelter their students from the exercise of taking formal achievement tests, as well as informal quizzes or exams.
- Students who apply themselves well should be recognized or rewarded. To this end, teachers should establish an atmosphere in which students can compete against their own past achievements or against other students. Most students thrive on a steady dose of healthy competition.
Home school teachers who make a genuine effort to incorporate the principles listed above will soon discover that they have become more effective instructors.
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