10 Educational Philosophy, Concepts, Methods, and Skills in Teaching Structured discussion requires teachers to plan in advance the main points that they intend to cover and some questions designed to provoke thinking about the assigned readings, practice illustrations, and other elements of the lesson plan. For example, in assigning readings, instructors can suggest that students read with specific issues, controversies, and applications in mind. With this preparatory focus, students can examine the readings in a more thoughtful and focused way. This preparation also facilitates their readiness to engage in discussion and at the same time provides a framework for it. Responding supportively to students’ communications. When instructors ask questions, they must wait for answers. And when students respond, their responses need to be acknowledged and validated, even when inaccuracies, illogical reasoning, or stereotypical thinking must be corrected. A climate of acceptance and support has to be established so that students feel safe in risking themselves and their ideas with one another and with the instructor. This can be done by starting with where students are in their knowl- edge and understanding, respecting their desire to learn and participate in collaborative efforts with their peers, demonstrating interest in each student’s ideas, and expressing warmth, appropriate humor, and enthusiasm about the subject. At the same time, misinformation and inaccurate understand- ing of concepts and principles must be addressed. The teacher can acknowl- edge what the student has said, ask for clarification or elaboration, and then suggest—or ask the other students to supply—an alternative explanation. We have found that three strategies minimize any embarrassment that a student may experience at offering an inaccurate response: crediting the student for attempting to answer a question and contributing to the discussion suggest- ing that others in the class may share the same perspective and positing that we may not have been clear in asking the question or presenting a particular concept in the first place. We also note that—in a clear example of “more is caught than taught”—our students closely attend to how we respond in these situations. Our response indicates to them whether it is safe to risk offering their own insights. We want them to be more concerned with actively participating in their learning than whether anything they say is “right” or “wrong.” As we frequently say to our students, social work is mostly about “shades of gray” rather than “black and white.” Answering students’ questions. How a teacher responds to students’ ques- tions has a profound effect on the class climate and the quality of discussion. If a teacher does not understand a question, the student should be asked to rephrase it. If the student remains unclear, the teacher might ask other stu- dents for assistance. But there will be times when instructors may not have an answer to the student’s question. Beginning instructors often feel pressure to be all-knowing and to hide their uncertainty. However, to respond, “I’m not sure,
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