August 22, 2005

Teacher-centred teaching works

Have been making my way through James Atherton's fascinating site on Teaching and Learning. Here are a few nuggets:
Teacher-centred teaching works:
So-called 'student-centred learning' is an oxymoron. It is about not trusting students to learn. It is a sophisticated manipulative game of getting them to jump through hoops of the faculty's devising.

Some people manage to talk in the same breath about being "student-centred" and the need to have clear objectives (even behavioural objectives) for their teaching. They may even be arrogant enough to want to specify the "outcomes" of their teaching. Formulation of objectives, particularly in its extreme form as "outcomes" is naive, objectionable and patronising.

There is a vast amount of current, sometimes contradictory, literature on "learning styles". What are you going to do with it? So some people are holists and some serialists, some activists, reflectors, theorists or pragmatists, some visual, auditory or kinaesthetic learners. And some are bright and some just plain thick. So what?....You can't tune in to all of them, so they have to tune in to you....Moreover, as the page on supporting students will argue, pandering to learning styles may be doing the students a disservice: they will benefit more from adapting and becoming versatile, more able to respond both to formal teaching and learning from experience, than they will from having everything made as easy as possible for them in your particular subject.

I suppose that we have to concede that in a complex society, dedicated educational institutions are a necessity, although Illich (1970) argues cogently that they are not. Nevertheless, being taught something formally is never better than second-best. The mistake made by people who advocate ever more additions to the standard curriculum, such as "citizenship", "managing personal relations" and "parentcraft" ・and even some of the so-called "key skills" ・is their naive belief that these can be taught and learned out of context, at a time and place of the teachers' (or state's) choosing.

"Teachers should promote a positive and encouraging culture in the classroom." Why? It can apparently be demonstrated that contented cows yield more and better milk. However, it is by no means as clear that happy students learn more than unhappy ones. Indeed, a recent report suggests that indiscriminate use of praise in the classroom reduces student achievement because it leads them to believe that mediocre work is really excellent and lowers their aspirations.

1 comment:

Hip Teacher said...

Oh, how I long to share your thoughts with my principal and leaders of the school district that I work for!

Why should teachers constantly change what they do when students sit back and relax? Don't those grades mean anything and shouldn't students WORK for them?

I get into trouble if someone earns an 'F'. I have to fill out a 5 page packet for every single one. My district feels that every student should pass every class, then we get in trouble when those students don't pass the require standardized tests. Amazing!