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CONTRASTING APPROACHES TO CONTENT AND

METHOD AND MOTIVATION IN THE CLASSROOM

ABSTRACT
This essay explores, in detail, the different approaches which can be taken towards the
content being taught in classes and also the methods by which this content is taught.
The essay explains how many theorists have approached this subject and how, today, based
on the same principles teachers approach content and method in their classrooms.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
I wish to thank Dr. Pauline Logue Collins for her help and direction in my writing of this
essay. She provided many points of interest for me to explore and critique to make the essay a
more interesting piece to read.
I would also like to thank our college librarians, based in both the GMIT and NUIG libraries,
who always provided the help needed in finding a book or any piece of literature I needed
from the library during the writing of this essay.
Lastly I would like to thank Ann Carroll, my mother, who took the time to give me advice on
my chosen key elements from her experience as a teacher and who proof read the essay.

CONTENTS
Abstract

Acknowledgements

Introduction

Changing Methodologies

Motivation and Learning

Content in the Practical Classroom

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-Content-To-Content Transfer

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-Skills-To-Content Transfer

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Conclusion

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Bibliography

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INTRODUCTION
All teachers are different. If one remembers back to their days as a student they will always
remember a teacher who stood out to them as being a good teacher, or their favourite
teacher. This could have been for many different reasons. One of these reasons may have
been the teachers approach to content and the method in which they taught it.
Many different people have many different views on the topic of education. Since the ancient
times theorists such as Aristotle, Socrates and Plato have been sharing their views and in the
case of Socrates, sacrificing his life for his educational beliefs. I know you wont believe me
but the highest form of human excellence is to question oneself and others. (Socrates)
In more recent times many more theorists were able to safely voice their opinions on the
matter of educational methods and content. Vygotsky and Froebel, for instance, believed that
group work was of the utmost importance for learning to take place among students. Maria
Montessori believed in physical play as a means of learning, Montessori began, therefore, by
creating an environment in which children could have physical freedom (A. G Hughes E.
H. Hughes, 1937, 414). Other theorists such as Maslow believed that in order to learn one
needed to fulfil a number of physical and emotional needs, which he placed in a pyramid
shaped chart and gave it the name The Hierarchy of Needs. When a need was fulfilled, only
then could a child move onto the next stage of the hierarchy and one step closer to Self
Actualisation You will either step forward into growth or backward into safety. (Abraham
Maslow)
Pavlov and Skinner, who were behaviourists, had other views on methods which students
could be taught. Pavlov, who carried out an experiment with dogs and Skinner who carried
out an experiment using mice linked their findings directly back to the classroom. In Pavlovs
experiment the dogs were programmed to expect food every time they heard the tuning fork.
In a classroom situation a child can be programmed to respond to a certain stimulus. If a child
is told from a young age to listen in class to achieve good grades and they follow these
instructions, they will eventually reach an understanding that every time they listen they will
obtain good grades.
These theories all have their advantages and disadvantages and every teacher will adopt their
own method to teach the course content. However, we as teachers must make the right choice
of methodology. We must avoid asking questions of ourselves such as How much thought
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and preparation do I give the subject content of my lesson? (Barrie Hopson & Mike Scally,
1981, 97) and start asking How can I teach this content to help the students understand more
easily? and How can I make this content more enjoyable for both myself and the students?
Ivan Pavlov once said; Perfect as the wing of a bird may be, it will never enable the bird to
fly if unsupported by the air. As teachers, we must remember that we are the air that supports
the wings of our students. No matter how intelligent and willing a student might be, if a
teacher doesnt try to take on an engaging method for teaching the subject content the student
may not reach their full potential.

CHANGING METHODOLOGIES
Our understanding of the way students learn is ever increasing, so why should our methods of
teaching stay the same?
Over the years teaching methodologies have changed from teachers standing at the top of the
class lecturing to the students, giving pages of notes to be rote learned and giving punishment
in the form of lines, to the more inspired methods of the theorists listed above and many
others. However, even as some teachers are trying to employ new methods of teaching in
their classrooms, some teachers still use these old style teaching strategies today. Freire
describes this as; A yesterday which is losing relevance but still seeking to survive and a
tomorrow which is gaining substance, characterises the phase of transition as a time of
decision.
Although a teacher may be clear about his aims as an educator he may also be wedded to a
very crude view about how they are to be attained (P.H. Hirst & R.S. Peters, 1970, 28).
According to P.H. Hirst and R.S. Peters, a teacher may think of themselves in one of two
ways; They could think of themselves as a kind of artist or craftsman using a variety of
processes to turn out a desirable product or They might argue that Educate is derived from
the Latin Educare, which means To train, and their job is to shape the development of
children
This is where the two types of teachers in our schools originate from. The first teacher is
trying to create a product which symbolises a good grade in the classroom setting. They try to
do this by following a number of set procedures to get the end product and have little
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understanding of the real meaning of learning. First of all notions such as mould and
shape are being applied in a very figurative way; for the human mind is not composed of
stuff or material that can be shaped or processed like clay or wood (P.H. Hirst & R.S
Peters, 1970, 29). The second teacher has a deeper understanding of what it is to learn. They
are of the belief that a child who is rote learning and getting good grades is not actually
learning in the deeper sense of the word. They believe one cannot learn without first
understanding. If a person is to develop they must, in some way, be brought to learn and
understand (P.H. Hirst & R.S. Peters, 1970, 29)
Further advances in technology have also lead to a change in teaching methodologies in the
classroom, as today, technology has become an everyday part of childrens lives. It is
important that teaching methods move with this trend to keep students engaged while at the
same time covering the same course content. Students are more attracted to the idea of
engaging in a lesson which includes some forms of technology as they can immediately relate
to it. Cedric Cullingford explains that students believe one of the qualities that make up an
effective teacher is their ability to make things interesting. However, even as educational
technology advances, there will still be teachers who will fight tooth and nail to keep pen and
paper the main tool of learning. It is as if all the human functions of relationship and
dialogue would eventually be replaced by a stronger and more controlling input of
information to the learner (C. Cullingford, 1995, 135).
There will also be teachers who use nothing but technology in the classroom and this can
have a detrimental effect of the childs learning and imagination, as most children already
spend about three hours every day watching television (Cedric Cullingford, 1995, 137).
According to Grabe & Grabe the use of the internet as a technological classroom tool can also
have its flaws or dangers. Therefore, rules regarding internet safety must be taught before any
student is allowed to access it I will tell the teacher if I find any information that I should not
see or that makes me feel uncomfortable M. Grabe & C. Grabe, 2007,398).
Although there are many advantages to using teaching methods which include educational
technology, the effects of an enthusiastic teacher cannot be substituted. The most gifted and
adaptable, imaginative and resourceful piece of educational technology is the teacher
himself (C. Cullingford, 1995, 141).

Co-operative teaching is also becoming more and prevalent in the Irish classroom setting.
Co-operative teaching is also considered, as some forms of co-operative teaching are

becoming more prevalent with an increasing number of learning support and resource
teachers working with class teachers in classrooms Nic Craith, D. (2007). There was always
some degree of co-operation between woodwork or construction teachers but now, as more is
being learned about Special Educational Needs (SEN), there are an ever increasing number of
Special Needs Assistants and resource teachers in our classrooms. These resources should be
utilised by an effective teacher to keep up to date on a students progress, difficulties they
may be having etc. These additional teachers in the classroom may also be used to reduce any
classroom management issues.
In The Essential Guide to Secondary Teaching a case study of High Cross Secondary School
shows how SEN teachers work alongside class teachers. In the school, learning support
assistants work with a single student but also help those sitting around this student (S. Davies,
2010, 140). This may be helpful to a teacher during a practical class as they may find it hard
to get to everyone that may need help.

MOTIVATION AND LEARNING


Motivation is often hard to find in a classroom, especially when it comes to covering the
theory content of the technical subjects. As a teacher, it is your job to provide the students
with the motivation they need for learning. This can be done by approaching learning with
different methods, some of which are described above. Techniques that work in one situation
or with one group of students may be totally ineffective in other situations or with other
groups (K. D. Moore, 1992, 221).
The methods we use to teach are largely responsible for the motivation of the students.
However, according to Kenneth D. Moore (1992, 221), many scholars such as Petri (1996)
believed that motivation was a result of cognitive, behavioural and humanistic processes.
As teachers we must understand these different processes and design our teaching methods to
suit them. For example, K. D. Moore writes that motivation is considered internal by
cognitivists, and the teachers role is to diagnose and guide self-activated learners.
Methods of motivation can take many different forms. At first glance, active questioning may
not seem like a suitable form of motivation The questions we ask determine the answers we

get, and to ask a question which takes one in the worst possible direction must surely be a bad
way to begin (Eric Sotto, 1994, 17).
In chapter 7 of the BORICP07 Document, a recorded conversation can be found among
teachers in a staff room. Some of the teachers argue that motivation comes from within the
child and they either have it or they dont. Other teachers argue that teachers, parents and
even fellow students provide or encourage motivation to flourish within a class. Is
motivation an inherited trait like one of the three temperaments (activity, adaptability,
emotionality) or Is the key to motivating learners a lesson plan that captures their interest
and attention? (Anon, ND, 1, Chapter 7)
No matter what side of the argument you may believe in, it is of the utmost importance that
the lesson is as engaging as possible. From the point of view of people who believe that
motivation is a trait people are born with, an engaging class will ensure these students are
intrinsically motivated to achieve the goals set by the teacher. For those that believe students
must be motivated by the teacher, an engaging class is the perfect way to provide any
necessary motivation.
An article from the University of Texas states; In other words, is motivation
something innate that we are born with that can be strengthened by reinforcers external to the
learning task, or is it something interwoven with the learning process itself? There is no right
and wrong answer to this question. However, the inability of a student to learn must never be
solely placed on their own lack of motivation to learn.
However an article published by the New England Complex Systems Institute states that if a
teacher uses a multi-convergent approach to teaching, giving students an opportunity to use
their aptitudes and inclinations for learning, motivation will come far more easily, therefore
increasing the students productivity.

CONTENT IN THE PRACTICAL CLASSROOM


Anyone who can remember their days as a student in the Woodwork or Construction rooms
can, more often than not, remember the transition from practical class to theory class. One
minute your mind is free to design, your body physically free to move around the class and
your mind and body are constantly working together. The next minute, when the project has

been completed, the teacher instructs you to take a seat and informs you that the theory side
of the subject will begin and will run for so many weeks.
From a teachers perspective this is when classroom management issues become apparent and
it is vital that they approach the new content (Theory) with the same enthusiasm as the old
(Practical). This can be done in a number of ways:
CONTENT-TO-CONTENT TRANSFER
This is a method where an effective teacher has a good knowledge of the other subjects which
students in their class are also studying. An effective teacher will link up with teachers from
other subject areas and may plan to teach a lesson which has cross links with another lesson
being taught in another subject in the same week. For instance, when science students are
studying Plant biology, an effective woodwork teacher may plan to teach a theory lesson on
the Lifecycle of a Tree to coincide with it, pointing out the links as they appear. This helps
the students understand the theory being taught in class much more easily. Stephan M.
Cormier and Joseph D. Hagman give the example of a college student taking a course in
chemistry, who may bring with them a repertoire of knowledge concerning biology and
physics that could be appropriately applied to learning the new subject.
SKILLS-TO-CONTENT TRANSFER
Skills-to-content transfer is particularly important during the transition from practical to
theory. Up until this point students knew what they were doing practically but had no real
knowledge of why they were doing it. For transfer from one task to another, of an initial task
can be appropriately applied to a second, target task (S. M. Corimer & J. D. Lagman). To
give the students a better understanding of the content teachers must always link back to a
practical lesson which the students have previously completed, e.g. The reasoning behind
using a certain type of hardwood for a previously completed project can link back to the
strength properties of timber and ultimately the topic Structure and Growth.

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CONCLUSION
From my research on the topic of Contrasting Approaches to Content and Method I can
conclude that there have always been many different views on how to teach a subjects
content. Opinions on methods among theorists, teachers and even students are extremely
varied, even though all have the same ultimate goal.
A teachers ability to provide a class with motivation or to spark motivation in the students
has a direct effect on the students ability to understand the subject content and this
motivation is often encouraged by the method which the teacher takes in teaching the topic.
From this we can see that Method, Motivation, Content and Learning are closely linked and
can all be achieved by an effective, organised teacher.
A teacher must remember, the method by which they approach the subject content may have
huge bearing on how much the students can learn. An effective teacher, must always
remember to, never discourage anyone who continually makes progress, no matter how
slow (Plato).

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Sotto, E. (1994) When Teaching Becomes Learning. London: Cassell.

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