The Art of Teaching Must Be the Art of Changing the Brain

Introduction to Professional Practice in Secondary Education  //  Week One


What is an effective teacher, and how do we become one? It is one of the most confronting ideas when becoming a teacher – the feeling of “how do I do this? can I do this? and will I be any good when I figure that out?” Really we should be asking what makes the difference between a good teacher who makes it easy for students to learn and a poor teacher who does not?

We need to understand a few things first;

  1. No single teaching strategy is effective for all students all the time
  2. People learn best through personally meaningful experiences that enables them to connect new knowledge to what they already believe or understand
  3. To be successful, learners must believe that they are able to learn, and want to learn
  4. Learning is not a passive process of simply receiving information – it involves deliberate, progressive construction and deepening of meaning; the construction and reconstruction of mental frameworks.
  5. A teacher must truly want to teach.

Without these key ingredients, our souffle of knowledge will be nothing more than a bland relay of meaningless facts and figures – our students will not learn, and therefore we have not been effective teachers. We need to relate their schooling to their everyday life experiences so that they learn to make sense of the world; emphasize that the development of understanding concepts and principles is more important than just factual information recall or routine skills.


So what do we need to know to become effective in teaching?

We need to know knowledge!

  1. Knowledge of your subject; you need to be passionate about and fully understand the subject you are teaching, if you are but a messenger or a student yourself, then how can you effectively get young students to make sense of the new ideas and concepts you will be feeding them?
  2. Knowledge about how students learn; are they visual learners or systematical learners? Do they require textbooks or technologies or group activities? You need to observe and use the ways which students are best up-taking your information to assist them in learning in ways that are consistent with principles of developmental and educational psychology. A reflective journal could be one way where students can confidentially discuss the topic and any difficulties with you which allows students to confirm what they understand to themselves and you.
  3. General pedagogical knowledge; which in short is knowing the function of a teacher; teaching – understanding how to guide students’ learning.
  4. Pedagogical content knowledge; knowledge about how to teach effectively in particular disciplines. The interaction between your knowledge of the discipline and your pedagogical knowledge will enable you to teach in ways that reflect the structure of your subject and make it readily understandable to others.

A model of teaching knowledge

Being an effective teacher encourages your students to think critically, solve complex problems and become technology literate; students of today are digital natives and teachers MUST process the same 21st century skills that students are expected to have so that we can ensure they obtain and develop these skills.

Teaching is more than just presenting content – we have to create a safe and engaging environment with the right emotional presence; we have to ensure students are able to connect the information given to them and that they engage with tasks given to cement and reconstruct this connection.


When we think about effective learning, we also have to consider quality learning. Some things are easy to learn at a superficial level, but to truly immerse a student to a total understanding requires a more qualitative approach. A student who takes a deep approach to learning are deliberately intending to gain personal understanding as opposed to those students who take a surface approach who are concerned with primarily accumulating enough knowledge to avoid failure. As a teacher, we have the influential ability to guide students to strive for a deeper understanding of a subject or topic which will effectively provide them with a more quality learning in experience. Something to make note of is to ensure students understand that failing is a part of learning, and that to fail is simply to learn in a different way.

With quality learning, students are able to;

  • perceive relationships between old and new knowledge
  • communicate this new knowledge to others
  • apply their new knowledge to solve complex problems
  • take a critical stance on the topic
  • retain the information long term
  • discover and create new knowledge for themselves
  • want to learn more


As a teacher, you should routinely think about what, how and why you teach.

What do you want your students to understand?



Killen, R. (2013)
Efffective Teaching Strategies: Lessons from research & practice 6th edition



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