ClearText 2010, No. 3 • October 20, 2010
The Teaching/Learning Process: Instructor Responsibilities
The teaching/learning process is a shared responsibility between instructor and student. Each must do his or her part to achieve success.
Expert instructors must have both instructional ability and a solid knowledge of their subject. Plus, instructors must conduct themselves professionally. Real “pros” are empathetic, respectful, use appropriate language, model correct behavior and have a burning (pardon the pun) desire to help students learn. Instructors must prepare for each class by studying, reviewing, and then following the lesson plan.
The Institute takes great care to ensure that course lesson plans match certification requirements. If instructors leave out parts of the course or change content, students will not be prepared for the exam. Skipping or changing course content has been found to be a primary cause of failure when a significant number of students from the same class fail the exam. Simply stated, the instructor didn’t teach the course.
Instructors have the responsibility to assist the students in learning. This is much more in-depth than delivering a lecture. Instructors must engage their students in activities, discussions, and assignments to help them practice and reinforce the new information. If students only hear it in class one time they will most likely not remember it (they didn’t learn it—they just heard it). While students have the responsibility for learning, instructors have the responsibility to facilitate, assist and set the stage for learning.
Knowledge and information must be practiced. “Don’t practice until you do it right; practice until you can’t do it wrong!” If students are allowed to perform a skill wrongly during practice, they will in fact, learn it wrong. Ever tried to “unlearn” something? Transfer that to the fireground. Do you want students to perform the way they practiced or the right way? Correct practice eliminates the need to ask that question!
Evaluation is a critical part of the teaching/learning process. If you don’t evaluate student performance, how do you know if they have learned fully and correctly? Ask yourself if the students are ready for the certification exam. Any answer other than yes means you are not finished. Better yet, ask the students the same question. If the answer isn’t yes, keep going! Practice through discussions, quizzes, question/answer sessions, games, presentations or any other way you can get students to say, write or apply the lesson. Then let them perform on their own. If they can do it right—every time—then they are ready. Keep practicing, re-teaching if necessary, and testing until they can.
You don’t have to be a robot reading from the lesson plan in order to do a good job. In fact, reading from the lesson plan may be an indication that you aren’t ready to teach the lesson. You will be less dependent on reading the lesson plan if you are well prepared. You must stay focused on the objectives and the materials related to them; however, be creative. Variety is also the spice of teaching and learning. Use “war stories” sparingly. If you do use them, make sure they relate to the topic at hand. When overused, students tend to groan and think “here comes another one!”
If you experience poor instruction as a student, first ask yourself if you are doing your part as a student. Are you prepared for class? Have you done your homework or project? Are you fully engaged in the class? If you are and it’s still a bad class, let someone know. Talk to the instructor about the shortcomings, or contact the training officer or responsible chief officer. If you wait until the course is over, it’s too late—for you and for us.
Instructors must manage the teaching/learning process. Be on time and ready to go. Know what you are going to do with every available minute. Stay focused on the course purpose, objectives and class content. Do your homework. Make sure you have the equipment and tools necessary to present the lesson. Don’t waste everyone’s time by not being prepared. Time is a precious commodity for instructors and students. Use it wisely and effectively, and don’t forget that a little fun along the way doesn’t violate any rules or principles.
The course instructor is the most critical part of any institute’s training program. Good instructors make learning both enjoyable and challenging. It’s hard work, but it is also very rewarding!
The next three issues of ClearText will address National Certification. Part 1 will explain certification and accreditation and what it all really means. Part 2 will address how certification exams are designed. Part 3 will explain how to prepare for taking an exam.
Have a topic you want to see addressed? Send your idea to KUFIRE@ku.edu!