Who is an Educator?
Often people think of educators only as those who teach in the pK-12 realm or higher education. Based on a core definition of teaching as enabling someone to do something through instruction or training, the role of educator encompasses far more than a licensed or certified pK-12 teacher or college/university professor. Among those who can legitimately be called an educator or teacher is anyone who models, demonstrates, or explains something to another. This includes parents, childcare workers, school teachers, coaches, instructors, mentors, and trainers of all sorts (for example, in sports, academic topics, health care, a large variety of professional knowledge and skills, etc.). It also includes the many people who are part of the chain of what is now called free-choice learning: those who teach others directly and indirectly as part of their work in museums, aquariums, zoos, observatories, science centers, fish and wildlife preserves, forest and agricultural demonstration centers, scouting, 4H and boys & girls clubs, public libraries, and extension centers. These are people who know their content areas, but may not have been formally trained in pedagogical principles or methods of effective instructional design.
What is Educational Effectiveness?
We live our lives through experiences that require us to bring to bear many different kinds of knowledge and skills. Students learn better when learning imitates life by focusing on real problems or activities that bring together multiple subjects. When learners build on what they know and make connections across topics and processes, they become engaged in their knowledge building and problem-solving because it has relevance to them. In this way, students engage in high-level thinking and discourse as they explore, create, and make sense of ideas for themselves. Learning transforms into the joy of discovery, making connections, and digging deeper rather than a mandated, disconnected school-room exercise.
So, what does it mean for an educator to be effective, and how do we measure effectiveness? Educator effectiveness is based on observable and measurable learner outcomes. When we want to know if lessons have been effective, we ask questions such as the following: What can learners do after a lesson that they could not do before? What do learners now know and can relate and connect to what was known before? Are they able to identify questions that remain? Along with increased knowledge, have the learners also changed their awareness of how the topic of study fits into the broader scheme? Do the learners have a greater appreciation for related issues? Have the learners become critical thinkers on the topic in question?