Skills of Teaching

When it comes to teaching we often make the simple mistake of reducing all that matters into one specific skill. For example, if someone is very good at explaining things we might say they were a good teacher. Likewise, empathy for students is often regarded as an essential quality for teachers.

I like to talk in terms of ‘skills for teaching’. In the approach two points are emphasised  – firstly, teaching is multifaceted and involves clusters of abilities rather than one single isolated skill and secondly, when I say skills of teaching I do not put ‘the’ in front, in other words, I mean to say “here are some skills of teaching and there are likely many more”.

However, the framework provided below is derived from a series of workshops developed by my colleague Dr Arlene Egan and I. We have used this framework to support improvement in college teachers and in our Post-Graduate Diploma in Learning and Teaching at NCI.

We we have devised an activity for each of the skills involved. For example, we use an activity called ‘high five’ to support development of presentation skills. student-teachers are expected to make a presentation to their peers on a topic of interest. They need to present without PowerPoint or any visual aids. The rationale is to focus on the skill of engaging others by means of your narrative. It is more difficult than you might expect. Even for experienced teachers and college lecturers the ‘scary’ part is presenting to your peers.

Another exercise we do involves honing teachers’ listening skills. We use role play to facilitate discussions about what the world looks like for students with learning difficulties or with mental health issues.

Overall, our approach is to work on a broad set of abilities that teachers need to be sucessful in today’s learning contexts. We make the point again and again that we are never ‘complete’ as teachers -we are always in formation and the new challenges of ‘design for learning’ and ‘using new technology to support learning’ are evidence that teachers will always need to engage in professional development.