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Learning about science of teaching

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If the mother’s lap is the child’s first classroom, I wish I had swapped my Lamaze class for a crash course in education nine years ago.

I am taking a teacher-training course at my mosque right now and am astounded at how little I know about the art and science of teaching. I regret that not only did my three daughters suffer from my years of winging it, but so did countless others who I “taught” in Sunday school or tutored as a volunteer.

I took the course because there are so many things I am trying to teach my girls outside of school — such as our languages, culture, history and values — but am not always sure how to go about doing it. Thankfully, after dabbling in education studies for only a few weeks, I have already picked up some techniques to try at home.

For starters, I never knew kids learned in at least three distinct ways: visual (watching), auditory (listening) and kinesthetic (moving around). I learned as parents we should present our materials in the way that our kids can easily grasp. That is, if don’t want more blow-ups across the kitchen table during homework or study time.

Until now, my 8-year-old daughter Fatima and I struggled daily when it came to memorizing passages from the Quran, our holy book.

I would insist she read the Arabic verses while she only wanted to repeat them aloud while looking elsewhere (such as down at her Sillybandz bracelets).

After taking the learning-style assessment test as a part of my course, I made a deal with her. She could take the same test and her results would determine how I teach her.

Predictively, she scored the highest points in auditory while still chalking up a few points in visual.

We agreed that she could mostly repeat the verses while reading them only a few times. I realized that as a visual learner myself and I should not force my way of absorbing materials on my kids, who have totally different learning styles.

My other moment of enlightenment came when I learned about Dr. Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences. He says people have different natural strengths and abilities and breaks them down into seven spheres: linguistic, logical/ mathematical, spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal and intrapersonal.

As parents we should realize our kids’ competences and teach them by appealing to those strengths. Not only that, but we should also find ways to appreciate and encourage their skills (without going overboard, of course).

With this newfound knowledge, I saw my 4-year-old daughter Aleeza in a new light.

She is a combination of intrapersonal and bodily/kinesthetic intelligences.

Aleeza is very organized and protective of her belongings. At the same time, she is keenly aware of her five senses, many of which she uses uniquely throughout the day.

For example, she matches socks during laundry-folding by feeling their textures with her bare feet. She decides which dolls she likes by smelling them! (A powder-scented Cabbage Patch baby is her favorite.)

Instead of dismissing her as a sniffing pack rat, I’ve realized I should teach her through organizational games and touch-and-feel play. Not only that, but I should encourage her in activities and studies that will utilize her strengths in the future. Research, perhaps?

Lastly, a lesson on Bloom’s Taxonomy in my last class has inspired me to go beyond sharing information with my kids by promoting thinking at a deeper level.

For example, instead of throwing my kids in their beds/crib after telling them a story or parable like I used to, I try to ask them questions that prompt them to think critically.

Bloom divides learning objectives into six pyramidal categories: knowledge, compre- hension, application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation.

His classification is best verbalized by educator William Arthur Ward as follows: “The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.”

Admittedly, to truly apply the lessons learned thus far I must master our upcoming seminar: classroom management.

Although on some chaotic evenings I feel nothing less than a Ph.D.
Tagged under  Family, Salina Khan, Voices

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