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1 November, 2019 00:00 00 AM

The psychology of learning applied to teaching

Another impact of negative reinforcement in education is that it hampers the process of learning and the normal growth of the child
Professor M. Matiur Rahman
The psychology of learning applied to teaching
Reflective Cycle of Teaching

The topic captioned above is a thought- provoking and complex one for which I was looking for an opportunity of presenting it to my esteemed readers for a long time. Not only the past but also some recent events and circumstances have compelled me to put my pen to paper and unfold my strong feeling as an elderly retired teacher. Frankly speaking a few days ago I heard an unknown old man talking to some people at the time of paying his electricity bill in a bank that a boy of class eight hanged himself to death on being rebuked by his parents for neglect of studies and not going to school regularly. After this I heard another child of five crying loudly when she was beaten by her mother for failure to learn a lesson. And again in Oliver Goldsmith’s poem The Village Schoolmaster there is an account of how the trembling children foresaw punishment and always found whether their teacher was in a bad temper or not. These cases touched my heart and I began to ponder whether they were the proper ways of teaching and learning. It is crystal clear to all that the answer will be no. Anyway, we know that the family is the best school for children and a mother is the best teacher of mankind. Both parents and teacher should know the psychology of learning to be applied to teaching if they truly want to educate their children. The traditional and outdated system of negative reinforcement has adverse effect on the children. In spite of these some school and madrasah teachers believe that ‘to spare the rod, is to spoil the child’. This is, I think a wrong notion – a criminal offence and a kind of cruelty to children.

However, another impact of negative reinforcement in education is that it hampers the process of learning and the normal growth of the child. It makes the learners timid, traumatized and shy. When the learner is criticized or rebuked or given corporeal punishment, he begins to think negatively or undermines himself as incompetent having no prospect and a sense of inferiority complex overpowers him. As a matter of consequence, he may take a decision of never to study any more or finish himself.

In our time some students used to become truant school boys for fear of harsh comment and punishment of their cruel teacher. In my boyhood I heard jatragan the first two lines of which are still ringing in my

mind: ‘‘Dada arjabonaschoolata/schoolagelemastera mare’’. Needless to say that many school teachers even at present adheres to inflicting mental and physical torture to their students for their inability to learn satisfactorily despite the operation of the state law against such bad practices. This sort of punitive measure stands on the way of the proper learning because education is a bipolar process in which one personality acts upon another to modify the development of other. On the contrary, positive reinforcement is followed by trained, well-educated and elegant teachers. In this context I would like to cite a few examples. When a student was slow in learning computer the native speaker of English said to him, ‘‘One day you will learn’’. A doctor does not generally upset his patient and even though the disease is serious he goes on inspiring and consoling that his patient would come round. Pertinently the precious words of AC Ward crop up in my mind;

‘‘The mediocre teacher tells,

The good teacher explains,

The superior teacher inspires’’.

William Shakespeare the great dramatist and poet says in other words as –

‘‘We cannot be all masters,

Nor all masters cannot be equally followed’’.

Furthermore, there is a saying that you can push the horse to water but you cannot make him drink. Because the habit of learning on the part of the children grows steadily and spontaneously with the sedulous care of both parents and teachers. It is true that learning is a mental activity and huge pressure on it is not compatible. Heuristically, teachers should not spoon-feed their students but treat them as individuals and encourage them to explore or discover things for themselves. He should study the psychology of the learners as all of them are not equally intelligent or belong to the same level of mental development. Research shows that there are four categories of learners: the very able, the able, the less able, and the unable. In view of this, the teacher concerned, needs to be careful enough not to prescribe a difficult task to a weak students for which he is not mentally prepared. It would be like giving food to a child only suitable for an adult resulting in digestion, violent stomach ache and vomiting and a rooted dislike for that food evermore. There must be natural pleasure in matters of learning. So Plato said, ‘‘Knowledge which is gained under compulsion obtains no hold on the mind’’. In my analysis I’ve juxtaposed the phenomenon of psychology, learning and teaching triangularly and interdependently for better discussion. First, psychology refers to the scientific study of the mind and how it influences human behaviours. Besides this, there is a reciprocal relation between teaching and learning involving psychology.Learning is the knowledge we get from reading and studying while teaching is the work or profession of the teacher. To some people teaching means giving information to the students. However, teaching is not simply a process of giving students information –it is a complex succession of techniques. In the last resort teaching is a human relationship and real teaching can be done only if there is a relationship between the teacher and the taught. So, S.A Neil in his bookProblem Teacher says that a good teacher does not draw out, he gives out and what he gives out his love. According to him the good teacher not only understands the child; he also approves the child. One of the most important points of teaching and learning is the teacher’s awareness of LPD i.e. learners perception of difficulties. He must identify and solve them. As a social messenger, the teacher enjoys a lot of honour and prestige. He is the symbol of authority in the class. It doesn’t mean that he would be authoritarian in his outlook with the students.

He should be aware of his pros and cons and know that prosperity cannot be built by creating fear among the students. That is why many psychologists and experts suggests the Reflective Cycle of Teaching for the modern age. This cycle of teaching contains five elements of mapping, informing, contesting, apprising and acting. Mapping: What do I do as a teacher? Informing: What is the meaning of my teaching? Contesting: How did I come to teach this way? Apprising: How might I teach differently? Acting: WHAT AND HOW SHALL I NOW TEACH?

In short the teacher should have complete knowledge of the psychology of learning so that he can properly apply it for better teaching and benefit the students in respect of learning. We know that the children learn through imitation while the adults learn by doing. Heredity, environmental condition and behavioural psychology of the teacher and the parents are also important factors to be taken into consideration in this respect. Many best teachers of our country believe that the true art of memoryis the art of attention. Hence goes the formula: attention + retention + memory = learning.

In the end, I would like to say based on mind forty two years of teaching experience at school, colleges, madrasah, public and private universities as well as the head of some government and non-government institution with direct observation of what our teachers are performing and how the learners learn from their lectures, I’ve become increasingly convinced that the psychology of learning and its implication should by all means be practiced in all classroom activities to improve the standard of the technology of teaching and learning in our country for which the present government has given topmost priority by allocation of huge fund in the education sector.

The writer is a resource person in teacher training and teacher education and former Principal, Government Teachers’ Training College, Cumilla.

Email: matiurserenity@gmail.com



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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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