Teachers and trainers from Jeddah College of Technology attended a series of workshops on Sunday, on alternative ways of approaching teaching. The course, organized and sponsored by the British Council, was presented and led by Tony Swainston. His experience in leadership management, cultural change and motivation in the field of education extends from the UK to Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Swainston introduced the attendees to a new approach to teaching. He talked about how a mind works and collates information and about alternative ways of seeing students’ successes outside the mainstream assessment structure. He said a teacher could also be seen as a learner.
Swainston’s unconventional approach to the methodology of teaching and learning includes elements of Neuro-Linguistic Programming and Lateral Thinking. He was delighted with the way his audiences in the Kingdom had engaged with the new ideas.
“They have been incredibly open-minded and tell me they have enjoyed it,” he said. “They have been very receptive to new ideas; more so than I might have expected in the UK.”
Although his “superteacher” initiative might seem to be for a select few, Swainston wanted a much wider take-up in the ideas he presented.
“Just changing some very small things in an approach to teaching can make a major difference,” he said. “I am a great believer in the notion of ‘tweak to transform’ to make a real difference.”
He said he hoped that the ideas he introduced to teachers, they already knew and believed deep down. “They might be common sense, but not common practice.”
A great deal of his work both in education and business involves looking at just how much individualsw are governed by their beliefs. “Sometimes those beliefs might be quite small, but will make a significant difference to how we operate,” he said.
He gave the example of a talented student being praised and seen as a genius by his teachers. “This can actually limit the belief of a student when he attempts challenges outside his area of expertise,” Swainston said. He explained that a student would believe he is talented for example as a mathematician but may be inhibited trying another area of development because he was scared he might fail in it. “That’s a case where self-belief mirrors the teacher’s belief and it actually limits development.”
He noted that the assessment culture that is common in education worldwide, allotting marks and levels on students, “has significant dangers in the development of students.”
Mohammed Shaiju, the British Council’s project coordinator said that Swainston was holding his workshops in Dammam, Riyadh and Jeddah.
“The British Council is interested in teaching techniques and wanted to introduce teachers in the Kingdom,” Shaiju said.
“We hope that the techniques shared by Swainston might contribute to teaching in general and be helpful to the continuing development of the Kingdom.”