ROLE OF TEACHERS IN REVERSING THE LEARNING GAP CRISIS
It has become almost a cliché to hear that a greater majority of teachers in Ghana are
not passionate about the job. If passion drives an individual to give off his/ her best
irrespective of debilitating circumstances, why are our teachers not being passionate
about their job? What then should be done to reverse the trend if indeed it is true?
Resources in every country are truly limited, and governments everywhere are
clutching at straws. Passionate teachers would not renege on their duty only to cite
issues of lack of or inadequate resources when questioned on students’ achievement.
This is partly what has brought the education service where it is today—more
resources lower outcomes. As teachers are now going to be working long hours for
little rewards or remuneration, will the situation worsen? Only time will tell. But why
wait for time to reveal what is already visible and can be fixed now?
Of the remaining truly passionate teachers in the system, the challenge is more of
content delivery mode. The issue of teachers being too focused on content instead of
process has also contributed to these learning gaps. Ginsberg (2010) writes that, the
goal/ outcome of teaching has not changed, but the process has. Prepare yourself with
your content adequately before class, but the pace and process of achieving the
objective must be led by the learners. It is high time teachers shifted the emphasis on
themselves and their classroom, which is very teacher-centred. A teacher-centred
teacher can teach an entire lesson without pausing to give the learners opportunity to
talk. After the lesson, one only hears; “Do you understand the lesson? Any
questions?” And when an average number of the learners excel in assessment, the
teacher takes it as a positive feedback of learners’ understanding of the content. That
is far from the truth, as the learning gaps begin to reveal in later grades.
Though Burns and Tagg (1995) assert that teaching has moved towards learner-
centred, some teachers too fixated on the content are reluctant to make a switch.
Studies by Bligh (2000) show that the extensive use of monologue or teacher-centred
teaching is ineffective for promoting thought, changing attitudes, inspiring interest,
advancing personal and social adjustment, or for teaching behavioural skills. And
these are the very values we expect learners to acquire as they progress. It explains the
seemingly poor or lack of critical thinking skills, collaboration and communication
skills, behavioural skills, etc. among most learners in this part of the world.
As research by Ginsberg (2010) has shown, all we have to do is give learners the
opportunity to teach us what they know. Not only will teachers be surprised at what
learners already know about the topic, but they will hardly have much to do or add.
This also helps increase engagement and reciprocity in the classroom, both of which
are associated with good learning. Perhaps, teachers need to learn about Bloom’s
(1956) taxonomy, Carroll’s mastery learning (Block, 1971), Barkley et al.’s (2005)
work on collaborative learning techniques, and Fink’s (2003) integrated model of
teaching. Collaborative learning techniques such as think-pair-share (Barkley et al.,
2005), small group discussions, classroom assessment techniques (CAT) (Angelo et.
al, 1993), and real cases or scenarios as part of role playing can be adopted.
Some student-centred practices, according to Darling-Hammond et al. (2014) also
rich and relevant curricula that connect to the world beyond school,
engaging pedagogy that offers opportunities for deeper learning and addresses
students’ learning needs,
authentic assessments that evaluate and guide teaching and learning,
instructional supports that enable success, and
personalization of the educational process.
The Ministry of Education (2020), has reiterated that for the effective implementation
of its policies/ projects such as GALOP, teachers must up their game. In view of this,
should not genuine passionate teachers be awarded? It is obvious that the yearly
award scheme has been so polarised over the years to the extent that truly passionate
teachers do not even get to be recognised. It is important to give credit to whom credit
is due. This will encourage the many who have taken the profession as a stepping
stone to have a change of heart and put in their all.
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Source: Phyllis F. Issifu