The most important attributes of a successful learner are a motivation to learn, confidence to ask questions, and good study habits. Very little is accomplished without motivation on the part of the person who must accomplish the task; this is especially true of learning. Motivation to learn in turn engenders confidence in the student to ask questions. If a student is hesitant to seek an explanation or clarification when they do not understand something that I am presenting they will not benefit from the lesson. The internal desire to achieve a learning accomplishment also drives the student to develop and practice good study habits. Regular practice and review of materials presented in the classroom cements concepts and increases the student’s proficiency. Thus, a student’s motivation to learn leads to two other crucial components of success: confidence in asking questions and developing good study habits.
Beyond these characteristics, I feel that the most important attribute that has gone unmentioned is an innate curiosity to learn about and be exposed to new concepts such as languages and cultures. This interest in acquiring knowledge drives the motivation to learn, which gives inertia to the student’s efforts. Curiosity is, in my opinion, what drives a person to continue learning throughout the course of their life.
During my primary and secondary education, I was very much an introvert, and learned most effectively in an auditory environment. Of course, I benefitted a great deal from charts or graphs that would help me to understand concepts, trace the steps in a progression, or illustrate terminology. However, my introversion made kinesthetic learning, or learning by doing in front of others, uncomfortable for me.
My introversion and hesitance to speak up in the classroom to ask questions definitely hindered my learning at points. I was at my most comfortable when the teacher was able to instill an environment that promoted discussion and all of the students were engaged. Those were the classes that I enjoyed the most. I try to create that atmosphere when I teach.
I slowly gained more confidence and now am much more comfortable in the learning environment. I recall, though, how I was once unable to interact in the classroom setting, and how it affected me negatively. Now, as I am teaching, individually or in a group setting, I strive to create an atmosphere that encourages asking questions. Periodically asking if anyone has any questions when I feel that there is a term or concept that is not understood can help me to understand if students are simply telling me that, they understand, even if they do not. Asking students to define a word or explain a concept reveals if they are, in fact, comfortable with the material. I feel that using these “temperature checks” as an opportunity to encourage questions helps to make an environment that promotes learning.
While I am primarily an auditory learner, I understand that not everyone is, and that I must incorporate other learning techniques into my teaching. I have found that using several different tools such as flashcards and videos to engage the visual learners and dialogues in front of the class to engage the kinesthetic learners helps to communicate the material effectively to all of the students, regardless of their individual primary learning method.
Understanding how people learn and accommodating their needs facilitates any kind of instruction, and English as a foreign language is no exception. Taking my student’s learning styles and the aspects of their personalities that may help or hinder their learning is an important part of my instruction, and helps me to be a better teacher.