WHAT IS THE NATURE AND PROCESS OF EFFECTIVE TEACHING AND LEARNING?
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Over the last ten years my thinking and writing have been concerned with the nature and process of effective teaching and learning. Although I have tried to present my thinking as a chronological sequence much of the work developed concurrently. Over the period covered by my publications my thinking has focused on three main areas: a. An exploration of the implications for language learning of the shared meaning-making process in reading, reading aloud and writing. (Approx.1978-1982) b. An exploration of the influence that a teacher may have in the shared process of meaning-making and its implications for teaching and learning. (Approx. 1982-1990) c. The power context of the classroom where the participants employ power strategies in an attempt to influence the outcome of the negotiation. (Approx. 1990- present) My early interest in linguistics led me to focus on the role of language in the process of teaching and learning. Initially I was concerned with linguistically analysing children's writing in an attempt to explore the ways in which their written language developed. However, I soon began to realise the importance of the learning context and the ways in which meaning is negotiated within that context. It became clear that the linguistic exchanges between the teacher and the pupils had a significant effect upon the learning that was taking place. I began to linguistically analyse the interactions between teachers and pupils. The linguistic evidence seemed to suggest that the operation of power between the teacher and the pupils affected the quality of learning. Much of my later work has therefore been concerned with describing power relationships and their role in the teaching and learning process. My interest extended to interactions in staff meetings where I analysed interactions between teachers and between head teachers and teachers. In all of these interactions I observed dominant strategies which constrained the future possibilities of action for others and were characterised by: * More institutional and less intimate syntax choices. * More formal choices in vocabulary. * Using high key or high termination choices. * Using dominant rising tones * Firmer and more emphatic paralanguage. * Intermittent or disrupted eye contact. * Emphatic gestures. * Repetition. * Ritual forms of language. I also observed less dominant strategies which facilitated or opened up the future possibilities of action for others and were characterised by: * More intimate and less institutional syntax choices. * More casual vocabulary choices * Mid key and mid termination choices. * A soft or moderate voice. * Long eye contact. Once I could describe the linguistic patterns which seemed to accompany dominant and less dominant strategies, I was able to explore the kinds of power strategies operating in the learning situation. I concluded that power strategies circumscribe the degree of co-operation and consent or conflict and challenge in the learning context. I found this was a helpful perspective in trying to describe what may be happening in the teaching and learning process. It can provide a measure of the quality of learning and illuminate different styles of teaching.
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