Clarifying Teaching and Learning

An understanding of each distinctive concept of curriculum, instruction, classroom management, and discipline is essential for effective teaching.For example, although classroom management and discipline are related, they are distinctly different topics and should not be lumped together as if they were synonymous.

Curriculum refers to what is to be taught. The curriculum is determined by state departments of education, boards of education, the “federal agenda,” professional associations, the community—and, more recently, corporate performance accountability models for learning.

It is the teacher’s responsibility to make the curriculum relevant, interesting, meaningful, and/or enjoyable. A first step would be for the teacher to ask the question, “Why should my students be learning this?” Then tell the students.

Instruction has two components: (1) teaching and (2) learning. The former refers to what the teacher does, the latter to what students do.

Good teaching of a lesson has at least three parts: (1) grabbing interest, (2) the actual teaching, and (3) reflection on the experiences for enhanced understanding, reinforcement, and retention.

Learning pertains to what students do to learn.

Classroom management deals with how things are done, how instruction is made efficient. It has to do with procedures, routines, and structure to the point of becoming rituals. Classroom management is the teacher’s responsibility and is enhanced when procedures are:
1. Explained to students,
2. Practiced by students, and periodically (when necessary)
3. Reinforced by practicing again.
When procedures are learned, routines are established. Routines give structure to instruction.

Discipline deals with how people behave. It concerns impulse management and self-control. Discipline is the student’s responsibility.

If, as a teacher, you have a particularly unsuccessful lesson, ask yourself,
(1) Was it the curriculum? e.g., I just didn’t make it appealing,
(2) Was it instruction? e.g., I had a wonderful lesson planned, but I did all the work; the students were not involved enough in their learning,
(3) Was it classroom management? e.g., I had a wonderful lesson, but it took 10 minutes to get everything organized,
(4) Was it a discipline problem? e.g., I prompted the students’ curiosity, taught a good lesson with meaningful student activities, had everything organized, but I still had disruptions?

Asking yourself these questions enhances a clear understanding of the differences between curriculum, instruction, classroom management, and discipline and is fundamental for effective teaching.