Monday, 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.


5 Comments:

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9:33 AM  
Blogger aaron said...

Provoking post Marco, especially this part of Atherton's quote:

"Teachers should promote a positive and encouraging culture in the classroom." Why?

Well, I think most students would prefer to be in an environment charged with positivity and support, as long as it is balanced by critique and constructive feedback. If students are doing mediocre or even sub-par work, we should be pointing that out to them, while helping them to find ways to improve. Otherwise, we do them a huge disservice. It's the same with parenting.

To say that we shouldn't support students, as Atherton's title reads, is ludicrous. What is important is to excercise the wisdom between what is helpful and what is hurtful support. I think Atherton would agree with that.

11:57 PM  
Blogger Cheryl Morgan said...

Hi Marco

I was sparked by your disparaging remarks about 'key skills'
'The mistake made by people who advocate ever more additions to the standard curriculum, --- ・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.'

Surely helping students to develop and hone their key skills (such as working with others and improving own learning) is a major role of a teacher! While I would definitely agree that key skills out of context is nonsense, you should see the excitement that students exhibit when they finally learn HOW to be effective speakers, learners, inquisitors by using their key skills in an integrated fashion for a REAL personal or educational interest.

My favourite phrase is 'if you don't know where you are going - anywhere will do' - when students know where they want to go and have the 'key skills' needed to get there - they will be empowered.

Cheryl Morgan

9:25 AM  
Blogger Marco Polo said...

Well, that was interesting! And I didn't even realize I'd posted this on this blog! (Blogger has been playing tricks on me recently). Obviously, Atherton is playing devil's advocate here, and it's best to pop over and read what he himself wrote (not just what I clipped and pasted). I really think he is saying something invigorating, and it's obviously not "let's hurt our students!"

10:08 AM  
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5:25 PM  

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