Development Features

New teaching, learning matters

FORMER Southern Province education officer Stephen Chishiko (seated left) tests one of the 22 computers installed at the digital hub library in Choma recently as pupils and teachers watch. The computers were donated by the British Council. PICTURE: CHOMBA MUSIKA

EDUCATION is part of our daily life, since teaching and learning form part of the everyday routine of each one of us.
In the context of school teaching and learning, I will attempt to talk about the educator as a mediator in learning.
The word mediator is derived from the Greek word mesites, which simply means an intermediary between two parties or to be in the middle. A mediator is usually a neutral person who is charged with solving a dispute between two conflicting parties to turn a problem into a win-win situation. Clearly, therefore, a mediator is strongly expected to be an intermediary, to communicate skilfully, resolve conflicts logically and show that positive understanding of diversity and bring about the needed change.
Therefore, teachers should be good at communicating positively between learners and their environment of interaction, their fellow learners and the learning content. Abraham Maslow, a famous psychologist, said that most people would understand or respond positively to messages in education that would meet their particular needs at particular time. These tell us that successful educators should have the ability to communicate well with good understanding of needs of those they teach. It means as a competent educator, you should speak and write with the learners’ needs at all times.
Besides that, cooperation among the learners in a cooperative teaching situation is an important way of getting your learners to understand, while a problem-centred  approach, in which learners themselves work with information and arrive at a solution. As a learning mediator, you should not produce the answers to problems, but you should rather give learners the opportunity to think of possible solutions for themselves. In addition to that, dear reader, you must also tactfully get your learners to see that a problem does not necessarily have one solution, but that other alternatives and more possibilities must also be explored.
In other ways, it has been seen in Zambia that the educator is still seen as one who communicates information to the learners. Learners are regarded as passive, while the educator conveys information – usually from a textbook. Teaching entails mainly one way communication, and learners accepted what they are told. This system of teaching has seriously resulted in poor performance in schools especially at grades nine and 12 levels. If this system goes on, it can result into poverty and underdevelopment as a result of lack of innovation.
Indeed, the role of an educator must change from traditional role where he was considered as a person who communicated information to learners while learners were regarded as passive recipients. Why do Zambian educators these days need to be learning mediators and not a traditional conveyers of information or learning content? Teaching aimed at developing the kinds of capabilities associated with higher education is complex. The major reason educators need to be learning mediators is that we live in a rapidly changing world, a world of ‘’super complexity’’ in order to prepare students for uncertain, rapidly changing future and also using more approved holistic approaches to teaching.
For this matter especially being in this demanding modern society, educators require high skills and intellectual efforts through professional training. A mediator is, therefore, someone who can act as an intermediary, facilitate dialogue, communicating well and make it easy for people and learners to express their own ideas, discoveries or feelings. In real practice, this means that educators must be able to manage their own internal dialogue as well as the interchange between the learners themselves. A mediator in education must adopt teaching techniques which give learners the independence to take responsibility over their course content.
This can be achieved easily if the knowledge and skills learners have to master are not given to them in the form of answers. They should instead be provided with the essential cognitive stimulus at the right time so that they can achieve the desired outcomes in their own time and by the means of their own thinking and discovering.
It is a wise thing to understand that good teaching is not a matter of getting the learners to commit facts to memory to pass examinations; rather, it is to teach them to participate in the process that makes possible establishment of knowledge. We teach a subject not to produce little living libraries on that subject, but rather to get learners to think mathematically and scientifically. These approaches can skill learners to explore things that are not discovered in different areas such in science, business, medicine, engineering, or developing studies.
Bowden and Marton, the educationalists, contend that when learners are taught to pay attention to critical aspects of professionals’ situations and to see patterns in these conditions, they are learning holistic capabilities that represent the links between disciplinary knowledge and professional skills.
Finally, the educator can also be described as the educator’s judgement of what new information will motivate a learner to a high cognitive level at a given movement. Social interaction with fellow learners, educators and even parents can play a vital role in achieving this aim. Note that learning is not a product but a process of knowing and practicing things. We will look at teaching strategies in the next part two article.
The author is an educationalist, researcher and writer.


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