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September 25, 2013

Training the Teacher

by Angel Pumila

Training the Teacher:

Informational Interview Report

Angel Pumila

Tamas Lorincz is an associate at the International Teacher Development Institute, as well as a freelance training consultant for educators worldwide.  In the past, Lorincz has served as an English teacher in the public education system in Budapest and an online course developer in Hungary. His position in the organizational structure of higher education as an instructional designer reported to the school of education and the provost in a horizontal model.  Lorincz was chosen for this interview because of his vast experience in many roles within the higher education system.  His experience relates to professional goals by providing insight into the skills required for effective teaching practices needed for a faculty position in higher education.

Interview Questions:

1)        What is the number one issue that you run across when evaluating teacher performance?

2)        What is the strategy that you use to improve these areas of teacher performance?

3)        Are there any specific methods that you use when developing course book materials?

4)        What measures do you use to track the success of professional development programs?

5)        From your experience, what are the cultural differences in teaching and learning styles in Europe versus the Middle East?

Tamas Lorincz has spent decades imparting his knowledge to teachers in an effort to help them better communicate material to students. He has developed not only textbooks and programs for secondary schools and universities in Europe and the Middle East, but he has also developed online resources in language teaching and learning. With a master’s degree in TESOL, Lorincz’s goal is to improve the learning experience for students and teachers.

Lorincz believes that delivering material does not necessarily mean that students will learn that material. Teachers must give students tasks and activities that help them learn to think critically, ask questions, and debate topics. “Teachers have to learn to be critical thinkers and independent learners before they can teach students in ways that are more meaningful and useful for them. Clinging on to old ideas of what a teacher is or should be is one of the biggest problems. A key step forward is to teach teachers to be able to say, ‘I don’t know. Let’s find it out together!’”  (Pumila & Lorincz, 2013).

Another issue that teachers face is how to deliver constructive criticism. While learning how to criticize, teachers must learn also how to accept criticism. Many times, teachers try to be nice and avoid criticism, which can be detrimental to students, Lorincz says.

Demonstration lessons are one way in which Lorincz helps teacher learn to communicate with students so that students will pay attention and actually learn the material being taught. Teachers are invited to observe Lorincz’s teaching methods and then discuss their thoughts about their observations. Lorincz also helps with lesson planning and delivery of information in ways that enable students to absorb the information. He believes that teachers can become enriched from observing other teachers, collaborating, and sharing ideas and experiences.

When developing course materials for textbooks, Lorincz considers that the material has to be relevant for the students it targets. “An important step is looking at ways of presenting and setting up the task in a way that it results in meaningful interaction between the students and the point of the activity is fulfilled. It is also essential to present materials as part of a longer process, and that students have ample opportunities to recycle and re-contextualise the information/knowledge acquired. A course book is a useful thing only to the extent it allows teachers to tweak and expand and customise it to meet the specific needs of their students and the curriculum” (Pumila & Lorincz, 2013).

Lorincz believes that teachers should build his/her Professional Learning Network (PLN) as a way to continually further their own education. For any professional development program to be a success trainees should have a choice in deciding the focus of the training. “It is far too frequently the case that a school administrator with little hands-on knowledge decides what the training has to be on. As a result, the training rarely responds to teachers’ real needs. This usually leaves the trainees frustrated and the trainer feeling awkward. Trainers can counter this to a certain extent by being flexible and prepared for making on-the-spot changes to the training program after assessing the trainees’ real needs” (Pumila & Lorincz, 2013).

Trainers should profile their audience and conduct needs analysis to better assist those who attend workshops and seminars. The first part of any session should be spent determining the basic premises of the training. Once the training session has been completed, Lorincz likes to ask participants to reflect on how and why the activities in the session can be useful to them. His goal is to foster the skills of giving feedback and critical thinking. After the session or program is completed, there must also be follow-up. Trainees should know how to get in touch with the instructor, and instructors must answer all questions that arise even months after the session. Follow-up workshops and/or classroom observations are also recommended.

Lorincz says there are many cultural differences in teaching and learning styles in Europe and the Middle East. Education in Europe focuses on creative thinking, whereas Middle Eastern education systems still teach students mostly what they need to pass exams. “This is partly due to the fact that Middle Eastern education systems are still plagued by too much testing, and teachers tend to focus on providing students with the knowledge they will need for the exam rather than skills they need in order to become effective 21st century thinkers and learners.  Exams also put great strain on the teacher-student relationship. It is much less democratic than in a European context where the focus is on developing students’ thinking skills and providing them with means of exploring topics and experimenting with the information they have acquired. In the Middle East, a teacher’s role is by and large still seen as information disseminator and the students are the information consumers. There is very little reliance on students’ own interests and experiences as a source of learning. There also seems to be a growing gap between what students learn at school and their life outside the classroom” (Pumila & Lorincz, 2013).  By acknowledging the existence of cultural differences in learning, educators can begin to understand how each student approaches education in order to plan for effective lesson delivery.

Methodologies must be reformed in the Middle East to help student development and give students a better chance, according to Lorincz. In a testing-oriented environment, students experience a fear of failure, which can cause unnecessary stress. “It is time to help teachers and students realise that making mistakes and failing at tasks is an essential part of learning and discovering our abilities and limitations” (Pumila & Lorincz, 2013).  There are, however, positive aspects to Middle Eastern education, especially the multilingual-multicultural environment in which speaking English well is a tool of survival. In Europe, that approach has been met with mixed reactions. There is also a growing demand for new technologies in the Middle East, which correlates with new approaches to learning. Students there are eager to use these new learning tools. Fierce competition between schools in the Middle East forces them to keep abreast of the latest trends, methods, and technologies.

“The fact that not everything taught (i.e. delivered by the teacher) will be learned (i.e. acquired in a reusable way by the student) has not been completely accepted, and teachers in the classrooms I have seen still believe that what they have delivered will be learned. Teachers have to start asking questions, looking for answers, and looking at different aspect of the same issue” (Pumila & Lorincz, 2013).

Lorincz provides insight into the requirements and challenges in the teaching profession.  He points out that the act of student learning is more complicated than simply providing instructional lectures.  It requires material presentations in multiple formats aimed at the differences in student learning styles in order to optimize the learning experience.  On-going teacher training and networking is also a requirement in order to enhance lessons with best practices found through the experiences of multiple educators.  As a future educator, a passion for continuous learning and improvement are great attributes to the education profession.

 

 

References

Pumila, A. (Interviewer) & Lorincz, T. (Interviewee). (2013).  Informational interview report.  Capella University.

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