Microteaching as a vehicle of teacher training--its advantages and disadvantages.N Ananthakrishnan
Dept of Surgery, Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education and Research, Pondicherry.,
Keywords: Curriculum, Faculty, Medical, Human, India, Teaching, methods,
Medical teachers unlike most other teaching professionals are unique in that no special prior or in service training in pedagogic techniques is considered necessary for their recruitment as teachers or for their continued efficient performance in that capacity. Under these circumstances their ability to teach is largely dependant on one of two modalities of self training - viz. a) observation of other teachers or b) by a process of trial and error while actually teaching in a classroom situation. The former has the inherent disadvantage of being essentially a passive process where one learns by imitation. It is time consuming and there is always the inherent possibility of bad role models. The latter process of learning "while doing" is even more risky. Apart from increased time and effort involved, there is no attempt at discriminating between various teaching skills to individualise the learning of the teacher. There is hardly any constructive feedback and even on the rare occasions when one does get a feedback, there is no opportunity to reteach the lesson to implement what one has learnt from the feedback. The method of learning how to teach is like a beginner being thrown into a swimming pool as the first lesson on swimming on the off-chance that faced with the necessity to save himself he will learn to swim.
Practising while teaching is also adversarial towards students' interest. The conventional methods, therefore, fail to be ideal for training medical teachers. Microteaching, which was evolved by Alien and his group in the late sixties to improve the skills of teachers is an excellent vehicle of providing medical teachers with an opportunity to improve their teaching skills.
Microteaching is so called since it is analogous to putting the teacher under a microscope so to say while he is teaching so that all faults in teaching methodology are brought into perspective for the observers to give a constructive feedback. It eliminates some of the complexities of learning to teach in the classroom situation such as the pressure of length of the lecture, the scope and content of the matter to be conveyed, the need to teach for a relatively long duration of time (usually an hour) and the need to face large numbers of students, some of whom are hostile temperamentally.
Microteaching also provides skilled supervision with an opportunity to get a constructive feedback. To go back to the analogy of the swimmer, while classroom teaching is like learning to swim at the deeper end of the pool, microteaching is an opportunity to practice at the shallower and less risky side.
Inherent in the process of microteaching is what is called the "component skills approach", i.e the activity of teaching as a whole is broken down for learning purposes to its individual component skills. These individual skills which go to make teaching are:
i) Lesson planning - having clear cut objectives, and an appropriate planned sequence.
ii) Set induction - the process of gaining pupil attention at the beginning of the class.
iii) Presentation - explaining, narrating, giving appropriate illustrations and examples, planned repetition where necessary.
iv) Stimulus variation - avoidance of boredom amongst students by gestures, movements, focusing, silence, changing sensory channels etc.
v) Proper use of audio - visual aids.
vi) Reinforcement- Recognising pupil difficulties, listening, encouraging pupil participation and response.
vii) Questioning - fluency in asking questions, passing questions and adapting questions.
viii) Silence and nonverbal cues (body language)
ix) Closure - method of concluding a teaching session so as to bring out the relevance of what has been learnt, its connection with past learning and its application to future learning.
The components of the microteaching cycle are shown in Figure. The Microteaching cycle starts with planning. In order to reduce the complexities involved in teaching, the student teacher is asked to plan a "microlesson" i.e a short lesson for 5-10 minutes which he will teach in front of a "microclass” i.e a group consisting 3-4 students, a supervisor and peers if necessary. There is scope for projection of model teaching skills if required to help the teacher prepare for his session. The student teacher is asked to teach concentrating one or few of the teaching skills enumerated earlier. His teaching is evaluated by the students, peers and the supervisor using cheekists to help them. Video recording can be done if facilities permit. At the- end of the 5 or 10 minutes session as planned, the teacher is given a feedback on the deficiencies noticed in his teaching methodology. Feedback can be aided by playing back the video recording. Using the feedback to help himself, the teacher is asked to replan his lesson keeping the comments in view and reteach immediately the same lesson to another group. Such repeated cycles of teaching, feedback and reteaching help the teacher to improve his teaching skills one at a time. Several such sequences can be planned at the departmental level. Colleagues and postgraduate students can act as peer evaluators for this purpose. It is important, however, that the cycle is used purely for helping the teacher and not as a tool for making a value judgement of his teaching capacity by his superiors.
Microteaching has several advantages. It focuses on sharpening and developing specific teaching skills and eliminating errors. It enables understanding of behaviours important in classroom teaching. It increases the confidence of the learner teacher. It is a vehicle of continuous training applicable at all stages not only to teachers at the beginning of their career but also for more senior teachers. It enables projection of model instructional skills. It provides expert supervision and a constructive feedback and above all if provides for repeated practice without adverse consequences to the teacher or his students.
Lack of adequate and indepth awareness of the purpose of microteaching has led to criticisms that microteaching produces homogenised standard robots with set smiles and procedures. It is said to be (wrongly) a form of play acting in unnatural surroundings and it is feared that the acquired skills may not be internalised. However, these criticisms lack substance. A lot depends on the motivation of the teacher to improve himself and the ability of the observer to give a good feedback. Repeated experiments abroad have shown that over a period of time microteaching produces remarkable improvement in teaching skills.