When I am younger, most of my teachers have adopted an authoritative approach to my learning.
“Take out your textbook, flip open your book to page 32, look at paragraph 6. Now read.”
This is a very common phrase that was used during my schooling days. While this approach tends to get things done (especially when it comes to handling a large class), it stifles creativity very badly. Why is this so? Because the students are not given an opportunity to think for themselves.
And this gets worse when disciplinary matters come into the picture. In my younger days, most of my friends made noise in class without a care in the world. When they are asked why they do not bother about keeping quiet, they will often respond in a typical manner and often with the same reply.
“Do not worry. If things get out of hand, the teacher will award us with punishment.”
As can be seen, we are often waiting for the stick rather than the carrot. When all of us grew up (as we have now), punishment and criticism often became the yardstick that we measure our achievements by, not the rewards and the praises lavished on us by others.
When I become an educationist, I strive to change that. Instead of criticising my students (as most of my teachers have done), I use every opportunity to identify my students’ strengths and praise them on it. But this is not enough. I also encouraged them to further develop their strengths. I call it the nurturing approach. Of course, they have their weaknesses. In this area, I often provide ways / techniques for them to improve. On the whole, I place more emphasis on their strengths rather than their weaknesses as I hold the belief that all my students have the potential to do well.
With this approach, I realised that my students self-regulate over time. Especially noteworthy is how some of them made the effort to prevent their own team mates from digressing and regulating the noise level themselves. Of course, there are times when they are too engaged in their discussion and the noise level can get real loud. In such case, a verbal reminder is often enough to quiet the class again.
This illustrates that students (and possibly adults as well) self-regulate when left to their own devices. This approach to teaching may sound controversial but it works. I encourage all fellow educationists, teachers and facilitators guiding students at the tertiary level to give it a try.