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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

The wrong way to educate.

The wrong way to educate.

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I have had many experiences in the education system. I am convinced that there are many wrong ways that are considered normal and necessary. For instance, the idea that learners learn what teachers teach. Mostly teachers are managers of unpaid employees who sometimes have a hard time figuring out what the payoff is. If the knowledge can be a payoff, then the manager has an easy time. Teachers can teach so little, so poorly, that it does not make sense to focus on this aspect of education. What they can do well is motivate and manage the learning of students. For a second instance of a wrong way, I would say that the separation of teachers and students into different categories is dysfunctional. Students need to teach and teachers need to learn, from their students. If we have a system that does things the wrong way, we should expect it to function poorly.

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Comments (10)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Betty Ray's picture
Betty Ray
Director of Programming and Innovation

I wanted to come back to this comment, as it feels like there's an interesting springboard for discussion. You use some pretty broad and sweeping generalizations here -- and I'll acknowledge off the bat that I'm taking the bait!

I hear your frustration, but it strikes me that most teachers do want to motivate and manage the learning of students. The problems come when they have - or they perceive they have - obstacles that may (or may not) block their abilities to teach.

It's getting at these obstacles - and perceived obstacles - that will make a difference, no? To my mind, there are many teachers who do motivate and inspire learning in their kids, and who learn from their students all the time.

I'd love to hear what others think...

Andrew Pass's picture

Betty, I completely agree with you. There are some very good teachers out there. There are many teachers who recognize that they are the chief learner within a classroom.

I think the problem occurs when media and stakeholders in education focus on the negative. Research indicates that while many surveys find that the public has negative perceptions of schools in general they tend to have more positive conceptions of their own children's schools. What does this demonstrate?

Andrew Pass

Ron Shuali's picture
Ron Shuali
Keynote Speaker and Workshop Trainer at Shua Life Skills

From what i've seen when I speak with teachers, there are many good ones out there. Some have lost their path due to the higher ups not supporting them, especially in behavior management situations. I have also seen teachers that only focus on one learning style. They mostly teach to the auditory learners and some step up and use visual cues to stimulate the visual learners. That itself is needed. And then the last 10% are left confused and on their own.

Keith Heggart's picture
Keith Heggart
High School Teacher from Sydney, Australia

This is a really interesting topic, but not a new one - parents have always known that some teachers are better than others, and I've seen them fight to get their children into one particular class as opposed to another - and I can't really blame them.

I think it's perhaps the teaching profession's biggest dirty secret - the fact that there are some teachers at schools who either don't care, can't be bothered or are incapable of teaching students properly.

To me, though, this is not necessarily their fault. I think that problem comes from higher up - that is, the teacher training institutions. Speaking from personal experience in both Oz and the UK, many people seem to see teaching as a back up career - so they naturally enter the profession lacking motivation or even an interest in working with students.

Small wonder, then, that these people fail to motivate their students.

(And Yay to me for my first post on Edutopia)

Keith Heggart's picture
Keith Heggart
High School Teacher from Sydney, Australia

This is a really interesting topic, but not a new one - parents have always known that some teachers are better than others, and I've seen them fight to get their children into one particular class as opposed to another - and I can't really blame them.

I think it's perhaps the teaching profession's biggest dirty secret - the fact that there are some teachers at schools who either don't care, can't be bothered or are incapable of teaching students properly.

To me, though, this is not necessarily their fault. I think that problem comes from higher up - that is, the teacher training institutions. Speaking from personal experience in both Oz and the UK, many people seem to see teaching as a back up career - so they naturally enter the profession lacking motivation or even an interest in working with students.

Small wonder, then, that these people fail to motivate their students.

(And Yay to me for my first post on Edutopia)

Daniel Spiegel's picture

[quote]I am convinced that there are many wrong ways that are considered normal and necessary. For instance, the idea that learners learn what teachers teach.[/quote]

Kvetching aside, that is a very germane point. I am my school's Mock Trial coach, and when I first met our new attorney coaches this season, I explained that the students will say that they understand but that simply means that they said they understand, not necessarily much more. A few weeks ago, one of the attorneys told me that he now understands what I meant.

The concept that knowledge is something that can be merely passed is unfortunately prevalent in institutionalized education. The idea that education is when a teacher fills the empty student vessel with facts seems absurd, yet most schools operate on the basic notion.

Sad but true.

Terri Browning's picture
Terri Browning
HS Language Arts from Oxford, Kansas

Kudos to Keith - this is my second!

I'm naturally a positive thinker and I adore my job, like John I've been forced this year to acknowledge this year that there are far too many teachers that still teach the way they did 20 years ago and see nothing wrong with that. In most cases, what they were doing 20 years ago was nothing to brag about then. While those who understand and value the necessity of continued learning on their part outnumbers those who don't, I'm afraid the margin between the two is not nearly wide enough. How does someone whose career is education not believe that their own continuing education is vital? I despair of people who believe learning is a one-way activity.

What I see as the most insidious problem is the teacher who falsely believes she is differentiating or that his annual 500 question, 3 day regurgitation test of basic facts is a good assessment because it covers many topics - but nothing in depth or in a way that allows the student to show what he knows. How do we learn to see ourselves clearly? It certainly isn't always pleasant and can actually be painful, but what growth isn't? In spite of the fact that I look in the mirror daily, what I "see" is still the twenty-something I used to be, not the fifty-something I've become. Perhaps our professional mirrors play the same tricks. How do we get past that?

Keith Heggart's picture
Keith Heggart
High School Teacher from Sydney, Australia

Hi Terri - I really agree with what you are saying. There is so much that is said that runs along the lines of, 'I've always done this, so I'll always keep doing this.' I like your idea of a professional mirror, too.

How do we get past that? Well, I think the only real way is from experience. Teachers who teach in that old teacher-directed, teacher as the font of knowledge; students as the passive receptors kind of way (and I won't say they are all old teachers - I know some very good old teachers, and some very bad young teachers!) need to be able to experience different ways of doing things. I guess this is why I am such a fan of deprivatising classrooms and collaborative practice - we should never stop learning as a professional - and the best way to do that is through watching others practice.

Terri Browning's picture
Terri Browning
HS Language Arts from Oxford, Kansas

I'm not familiar with "deprivatising classrooms." I don't know if I'd call it something else or if I'm just flat unaware of the concept! Maybe it's cultural phrasing. :-)

I love the idea or peer coaching. What a wonderful opportunity; just pop into a classroom down the hall or across the building and get new ideas immediately. I'm in a small school so maybe the problem is exaggerated; I know too much about my coworkers? Few of them are ready for peer coaching. I'll admit I felt a little nervous the first time - what stupid thing will I do? She'll think I don't know what I'm doing! Yet when we talked afterward, it was a terrific learning opportunity with lots of give and take. I think we're getting closer to using it on a bigger scale, but I get terribly impatient. I remember how nervous it made me, yet I can't figure out how to convince people how great it is! Maybe I need to start smaller....

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