In the globalized world of today, there is a diversity of learners in all educational contexts. In a classroom, pupils are belonging to diverse backgrounds. Never would any classroom today be a homogenous group of students. And these diverse students have diverse needs. For instance, the needs of students with autism are different and the needs of students with dyslexia are different. The needs of students belonging to lower socio-economic strata are different from those belonging to higher socio-economic groups. It becomes important for teachers to acknowledge and cater to these diverse learners and take them altogether through an inclusive education approach. The role of a teacher lies at the heart of the educational growth of learners and holds a significant value in the learning process. Research shows that teachers have a critical role in the incubation of talent in pupils (Gentry, Steenbergen-Hu & Choi, 2011).
Past literature has focused immensely on exemplary teachers and their efficiency, especially to cater to the needs of diverse student populations (Henard & Roseveare, 2012). Based on the research findings of Assessment 1, the present literature review paper identifies two professional identity qualities and two teaching practices that make up an exemplary teacher. The qualities of the exemplary teacher that would be highlighted in this paper are the ability of the teacher to form positive and fulfilling relationships with their pupils; and their knowledge about the subject as well as social contexts. Further, the paper would be focusing on the research around two effective teaching practices that are critical especially for the efficient learning of diverse students: the student-centered approach and the constructive feedback mechanism. The review of literature on these exemplary teachings aspects would further be discussed in the context of the educational setting of school students where the researcher aims to work in the future.
One of the most important qualities of an efficient teacher is her ability to co-construct meaningful relationships with her pupils that foster their learning through providing a positive and comfortable space and enhance their motivation to grow (Mantzicopouloset al, 2018). In a school classroom, students belonging to different backgrounds or having different needs might feel out of place. However, having an efficient relationship with the teacher helps diverse students in a classroom to feel happier and have a better learning experience through the enhancement of their mental well-being (Froiland, Worrell & Oh, 2019). Research also suggests that the quality of relationships shared between the student and the teacher impacts not only the mental and emotional health of the pupils but also the academic well-being of the students by enhancing their performance as well as their engagement in the class (Lee, 2012; Pianta, Hamre & Allen, 2012); and their behavioral and social development (O’Connor, Dearing & Collins, 2011). Great emphasis on the positive outcomes on diverse learners in various domains, especially in school children, forms the strength of the literature.
Despite the advantages of an efficient teacher-student relationship to enhance diverse students' learning; diversity itself is a barrier for the teacher to be able to create these relationships, especially in a school context. Research suggests that people belonging to minority groups are less likely to engage in positive student-teacher relationships (Gallagher et al., 2013). The existing literature though talks about the quality of an exemplary teacher to create positive relationships with the students; there is a gap in understanding the role of students and their diverse characteristics in reciprocating the same and co-constructing the relationship. There is also a lack of focus on the literature of having interventions specifically designed to make students belonging to minorities more acceptable to the teachers’ attempts to create a positive relationship. This suggests a need for researchers to explore intervention programs for the same. Learning from the trends in literature, I aim to maintain healthy individual rapport with all the students of my class to foster their holistic development. In the school context, I also aim to take care of their mental health by creating these safe spaces for them so that their positive emotions further broaden their capacity to think and engage creatively in class. However, I also aim to use the gaps in the literature to focus more on interventions to allow students from minorities to engage by focusing more attention on them.
The need to have professional expertise over the subject and to have a strong knowledge grasp over one’s field of study has been at the core of what defines an effective teacher. This emphasis has been put forth in literature since time immemorial (Sadler et al., 2013). Teachers’ subject knowledge has been found to enhance students’ performance significantly (Metzler & Woessmann, 2012). Acknowledging the importance of teachers’ subject knowledge, there have been various subject enhancement training programs for teachers for specific subjects like mathematics which have shown to enhance the efficiency of teachers in school classrooms (Edwards, 2015). Teachers who have limited knowledge are ineffective with their pupils (Walshaw, 2012). The importance of teachers' knowledge is specifically important for catering to the diversity of students. For instance, students with intellectual disabilities would require teachers to have a stronghold of their subject to be able to explain the concepts to them efficiently.
While the literature has heavily emphasized the professional aspects of knowledge for an effective teacher and has extensively studied various contexts, socio-economic statuses, as well as levels of education, the importance of having a more general socio-cultural knowledge, has been broadly ignored in the existing research, hence highlighting the gap in the empirical shreds of evidence of an exemplary teacher for diverse learners. Research also highlights the need for teachers to have sufficient knowledge about their Self (Day, 2013) as well as the socio-cultural contexts to enhance the learning of their diverse students (Liakopoulou, 2011). These trends and gaps in the literature contribute to an essential understanding of how I want to build my professional identity of being a future educator in schools based on appropriate knowledge about my subject as well as a general sense of awareness. The benefit of utilizing the literature to enhance my professional as well as social skills would not only help me be more self-aware and grow as a human as well as a professional but would also lead to efficient results for my students. Through awareness about different cultural backgrounds, various neuro-divergent disorders, etc.; I would be able to cater to the needs of diverse students through perspective-taking.
The student-focused teaching practices embedded in the learner-centric pedagogy play a significant role in creating an exemplary teaching experience for diverse learners. Ample evidence exists in the literature that suggests when students are actively engaged in a classroom to co-construct knowledge through experiential learning as opposed to being passive recipients of content from the teacher; they have better social, academic (Freeman et al., 2014) and psychological results (Laal & Ghodsi, 2012). Research suggests that students perceive the teacher’s practice of student-centric teaching as more positively influential to them (Lumpkin, Achen & Dodd, 2015). Even the teachers perceive this practice of teaching to be highly efficient in comparison to the traditional lecture-based practices and pay the greatest importance to the dimension of psycho-social learning in a classroom (Cubukcu, 2012). While the strength of the literature is strengthening of one finding instead of having mixed results, the existing literature typically focuses on high-school and college students with a very scant focus on younger school students.
This creates a gap in the literature, highlighting the need to study younger students who might benefit more from more passive learning in their initial years. Concerning the needs of diverse learners, research highlights how student-centric teaching is at the heart of creating an inclusive education system (Florian, 2014). When students belonging to diverse backgrounds are allowed to engage and participate with each other as well as the teacher, there is an establishment of a positive classroom environment; accelerating the growth of diverse learners. While this teaching practice is very fruitful for diverse students; it is also important to acknowledge the barriers that various situational contexts pose for its implementation. Research shows that lack of time, vast syllabus, and the need to complete it as well as various other pressures on teachers as well as students act as constraints for the practice.
It is also evident that student-centered teaching is much more difficult in rural contexts (Wang, 2011). The learnings from these literature trends would help me to efficiently manage time and barriers keeping in mind the constraints that hamper this practice; to be able to efficiently practice. Further, I aim to integrate various experiential aids to teach like PPTS, videos, memes, field visits, collaborative projects, etc. to allow holistic growth of my students; while keeping in mind the diversity. Having a good interpersonal relationship with my students would further allow me to cater to when certain practices might create a divide for some diverse students (for instance, the difficulty of students belonging to lower socio-economic strata to indulge in web-based practices).
The practice of teachers to give constructive and individual feedback to students is a powerful tool in enhancing the quality of classroom learning through enhanced performance and learning of students (Donche et al., 2012), especially for those belonging to diverse groups who might require the individual attention from the teacher on certain aspects. Just the fact that individual constructive feedback makes each student feel that his/her presence and effort is acknowledged, creates a positive impact for the diverse learners. However, the literature highlights the significant role of how students perceive feedback as a mediating factor in the efficiency of this teaching practice (Bearman et al., 2012). Findings also show that the efficiency of constructive feedback increases when it is transmitted through a dialogue-based mode between the teacher and the student; as opposed to the teacher just sending it (Blair & McGinty, 2012). Researchers have found various positive impacts of this practice- enhancement of students' self-esteem (specifically for people belonging to the minorities), a healthy student-teacher relationship, and a positive growth-fostering classroom (Simpson & Mengi, 2014).
Research also suggests that constructive feedback is essential for an inclusive classroom where all learners with diverse needs and belonging to diverse backgrounds are addressed are individually provided feedback on how to improve on themselves; with their Self as the reference point and not the class (Agbenyega, 2011; Cobb, 2015). While the literature on this teaching practice puts adequate emphasis on diversity and shows consistent findings; it is mostly done on college students due to the lack of understanding of the feedback for younger children. There is also a gap in studying the role of language in which the feedback is given, the mode (online/offline), and various socio-demographic variables. However, these findings have a huge impact on my aspirational professional identity. The literature motivates me to inculcate the practice for my students through an interactive mode and support their individual growth, not in comparison to anybody else by themselves. The gaps would also allow me to conduct research and interventions based on constructive feedback on school children belonging to various demographic constructs to see its efficiency as a practice.
The review on the four aspects of exemplary teaching: student-teacher relationship; knowledge of the subject, Self and the social world; student-centric learning style and the practice of giving dialogue-based constructive feedback, in specific relation to diverse learners highlights various trends in literature as well as gaps in the knowledge field that need to be focused on by scholars. The paper highlights a lack of literature on primary and pre-primary school contexts. There also exists an overall gap in addressing the intermediate role of factors like disability of the student, financial conditions, etc., about the four aspects. Nonetheless, the literature review has a strong implication on how I actively go on to construct my professional identity as an educator in the future and how I keep in mind the pitfalls of the literature to conduct research and interventions around the same. On a personal level, the literature also increased my knowledge field about my subject and guided me to enhance my identity to be a better professional for the future.
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