“That’ll teach you…”

April 4, 2007

Let us give up this idea of teaching; you can’t teach anybody anything; people learn and they learn by their own effort, when they are ready, not before.
Now, you can enthuse, inspire; provide road maps of interesting places to go and itineraries of how to get there. You can wipe noses and massage tired feet on the journey; provide picnics and campfire singsongs. You can set up staging houses along the way; places to visit and you can set the discipline to keep students going when they would rather sit down and play video games where they are.
You can even give them piggyback rides, or bundle them into buses and physically take them to the destination – but eventually they have to get there again by themselves and where you can take them is probably not where they have to go.
Yes, I like this idea; I’m a travel agent and tour guide.

A socio-constructivist approach to teaching

April 3, 2007

Over fifty years of research and thousands of articles have consistently drawn conclusions that have been resolutely ignored by schools; that efficient learning must be self-regulated learning (White, 1958, Harter 1978, Ames, 1992 and Deci & Ryan 200, among hundreds of others).

Yet perceived need for control, result in the maintaining of teacher-imposed, performance-based structures held in place by the extrinsic motivation of reward and punishment. What is taught, and praised, is conformity.

Such behaviour may be appropriate and desirable in a stable economy, but not what is required in our present economic climate, which demands flexibility, adaptability, creativity, communication skills and the capacity for independent learning as a control-orientated learning environment encourages passivity, dependence and conformity rather than taking active responsibility for one’s education and developing the creativity required in the job market.

Further, it has been frequently shown that learning is not linear or discrete; Postman & Weingartner (1969) described learning as a sort of “psycho-logic” like a Jackson Pollock Painting . M. Boekaerts (2002) takes the metaphor of the classroom as a complex eco-system like a tropical rainforest where many related elements beyond the content of the class affect what is actually happening. Sadler (1989) concludes that “student’s development is multidimensional rather than sequential, and prerequisite learnings cannot be conceptualized as neatly packaged units of skills or knowledge.” However, this is just what most programs try to do; create modules of discrete units that are taught and assessed.

Although such a model can be maintained for the time being by the persuasive tools of grades and exams, the Internet has already changed the student’s attitude and behaviour and I believe that our classroom model will have to change towards a more constructivist approach. Mediappro, the European Research project on the appropriation of new media by youth (2006) drew the conclusion that schools seriously underestimate the role of the Internet in young people’s lives. We are no longer in control of how when students learn ; we need to accept and embrace this fact and help students structure their learning and their thoughts, rather than imposing ours.