Remember, there are two categories an educator needs to fit within in order to make student-centered learning effective: facilitator and mentor. Last week, we talked about being an effective facilitator within a student-centered learning environment. This week, let’s discuss the teacher as a mentor.
As a mentor, we need to be sure we:
- Provide guided practice. This is the next step towards independence from demonstrations and role modeling. Teachers need to learn to slowly back away and let students struggle a bit. The brain is like a muscle in many ways; as we work the brain by struggling to learn something new, it “grows”!
- Conduct conferences and deliver timely feedback. The most important thing for students in a learning environment has to be timely feedback on their work. As educators, we need to conduct conferences with students—in groups, or individually—in order to see where each is at. Once we see where our students stand with the work and information we’ve given, we need to provide feedback so that students can learn from their mistakes and not completely fall off track.
- Feedback via grades is good and necessary. However, the most effective way to teach is to provide information back to the students quickly so that students know what they’re working on in relation to your class and expectations. Students learn more, and retain useful information that will benefit them, and you, in the future. Yes, it is time-consuming, but it is worth every single second.
- Produce motivation. Most teenagers are not intrinsically motivated about education today. Few students enjoy reading, completing math problems, or researching a historical event. Knowing how to motivate your kids comes with knowing your students and being a professional rapport. It seems like a waste of time, but the any opportunity possible to build this relationship and the motivation will come. If not, link the assignment to a real-world application that interests the student.
- Implement and reinforce a team-building environment. The real world requires collaboration amongst individuals in different departments, so why not bring this into education, as well?
- Support students. Part of this is also instilling confidence within our students. Due to the current—and historical—methods of education, many students are not comfortable being independent in the classroom. Teaching students confidence, independence, and learning from mistakes is worth more than any rote memorization exam in the long run. The idea is to set a sturdy foundation and gradually release them into the wild!
Just like the facilitator guidelines, this is not an all-inclusive list of how to be an effective mentor in a student-centered learning environment. There are plenty of other pieces we need to consider while instructing within the realms of the mentor role, but these have proven to be the most important in my own experience.
Next week, we take a look at giving up absolute control in the classroom. This is a tough one for my own OCD-ridden brain!