Edutopia on Facebook
Edutopia on Twitter
Edutopia on Google+
Edutopia on Pinterest Follow Me on Pinterest
WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Does Creative Teaching Hurt College Readiness?

Does Creative Teaching Hurt College Readiness?

Related Tags: New Teachers
More Related Discussions
25 Replies 2270 Views
This may seem like an absurd question, but it has been bothering me recently so I will pose it nonetheless. I work at a private college prep school outside of Houston that is similar to Kip and Yes Prep. So our students come from inner-city Houston and are all on scholarships. I am very interested in non-tradition (non-lecture) teaching methods and encouraging discovery and student centered instruction. At the same time, I can't help but remember what college was like (for me, less than a year ago). By playing to how students learn and become interested and engaged, are we teaching them to be college ready students. What will they really face in college. They will have to read large sections of text per week, with one or two lectures where the professor will most likely cover a small (often insignificant) section of the subject material covered in the reading, and students will be expected to be tested through exams or essays on the material regardless of whether the professor directly addressed it or not. If students are not actively exposed to lecture style teaching, especially in the 11th and 12 grade years, how can we say they are ready for college style teaching. They may be ready intellectually but perhaps we have not prepared them to have the student skills required to deal with this style of teaching. I want my students to learn and become interested in the subject. I want them to be prepared to write essays and think critically. However, my students can't take notes - they don't know how - from a lecture. As k-12 educators adapt and work to teach based on how students learn, but the college level continues to (for the most part) teach along traditional lines, are college prep schools making college ready students? How can we be innovating and engaging but also prepare students for teachers and professors who are not?

Comments (25 Replies)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Lauren Teather's picture

I agree with SarahW103 here - wouldn't a better question be .... if non traditional teaching and student centered learning is the way to go, why are colleges still using a traditional model of lecture and exams? As a teacher, when I think back to my college preparation, I recall very little of it. My college education got me a degree, and with a BA in Biology, sure I developed skills for scientific inquiry that are useful for teaching science, but content wise? Sitting in a lecture hall and taking notes only prepared me for the test. If we are genuinely planning backwards, should college education be filled with more practical opportunities and fewer theoretical experiences?

Chuck Stoffle's picture

I agree with Lauren 100%. We, actually only a few of us, are making every attempt possible to change the way students in k-8 learn by adopting such techniques as inquiry based learning. I think that this should be a natural progression into college/university where the thinking must also change regarding how lessons and information is delivered. If you're interested in inquiry based learning (for those that dare) there is a resource blog at inquirylearning.ca

John Middleton's picture

It does not. As long as the proper habits of mind and critical analysis skills are developed, the rest will follow. Students aren't idiots. They don't need to have everything spoon-fed to them.

Gloria Mitchell's picture
Gloria Mitchell
English teacher

I agree with John Middleton's post above that students who have good analytical skills and good habits can figure out what they need to do to succeed in college.

That said, learning to take notes from a lecture is a useful skill, and so is test-taking, and it would probably be useful to high school students have at least some practice with these. The problem is that there are schools where the kids seldom do anything else.

The more difficult skills needed for college -- the ability to engage in original research and formulate thoughtful analyses and well-supported arguments -- are surely better developed by creative teaching than by a lecture-and-test format.

The project-based classrooms I've seen challenge kids to search for and synthesize information, and present it in a variety of forms, including thoughtfully written papers that undergo multiple revisions before they are ready to submit. I remember writing a lot of papers and taking essay tests in college, so to me this resembles college work much more than multiple-choice or short-answer tests would.

Joseph Kaye's picture
Joseph Kaye
Director of Academic Success / Edison State College

Certainly, there's nothing necessarily wrong with creative teaching, as long as it's within reason (and hopefully based on some researched theory or practice). I think the real problem is that it's really difficult to gauge whether or not the methods derived from creative teaching can be reproduced elsewhere. Often, it's not the creative teaching that's producing results; it's the creative teacher him or herself.

Bill Sheehan's picture
Bill Sheehan
High school English teacher from Massachusetts

College required me, as a student, to be more indpendent in my learning than ever before. I found that relying on the professor exclusively, as I had relied on my high school teachers in the late 80s/early 90s, to relay content was not going to prepare me for either the test, paper, or final exam. The expectation was that I wanted to learn the material, which is why I had chosen the course in the first place. Much of the 21st Century learning movement will prepare students for this level of engagement and independence.

However, being able to listen and comprehend the spoken word is an important skill students will use in lectures, during podcasts, and in academic discussions and roundtables. And beyond college, this becomes an important skill for boardrooms, professional conferences and the car ride into work as they listen to NPR. Not to mention the important presentation delivered by your 20th century boss.

So part of the question here, is whether students have diminished listening skills or are they simply not engaged enough to listen attentively? Regardless of how much attention the student-centered approach garners in the education forums, there will always be a place for the talented lecturer. Lecture has an important place in our national history if we see lecture as speech-making. And lecture skills -- listening, writing and delivery -- need to be taught (continued to be taught) alongside blogs, wikis, and social networks.

The major concern for me as I begin to incorporate these technologies into my classroom is that I will lose time in my room for live discussion. Evin Fox up above mentioned Hillocks and Vygotsky and, thus, an epistemic pedagogy. Central to this pedagogy is the dialectical model -- discussion, debate, argument. Certainly blog posts are another way to engage student thinking, but as my own students blogged about on my newly created space at www.mrsheehansclasses.blogspot.com, blog conversations lose the vitality of live give-and-take discussions that incorporate voice tone, gesture, facial expression and the other myriad ways we communicate complex human thought to one another.

So, along with the talented lecturer is the talented discussion leader. What I see among my colleagues, though, are question and answer sessions or rigid "Socratic" circle discussions that never move beyond class activity status for the students -- they engage, but only because a grade is at stake. 21st century teachers now have a whole new toolbox of activities that could very easily make it easier for students to not engage in live discussion. How will this help them in job interviews? How will this help our society if the younger generation can create video blogs -- monoglogues essentially -- but they can't hold a conversation; if they can blog or social network, but they can't comprehend another's spoken claim, evaluate it synthesize it, and then respond to it immediately in manner that does not necessarily refute it, but perhaps qualifies the claim?

Collaboration and inquiry/problem-based learning helps, but not every discussion can center on such an activity. What happens to dinner table conversation then? Tonight we'll be having roast beef, potatoes, carrots and discussing how the "Arab Spring" will affect the US position in the Middle East.

Marshall Barnes's picture
Marshall Barnes
Founder, Director of SuperScience for High School Physics

I think the problem is pretty self-evident from the number of varied responses here and the plethora of teaching and learning styles they cite. The bottom line is that there is no one way to learn or teach. Technology, teaching methodology, and student learning aptitudes are inconsistent across the wide samplings that exist nationwide. The solution is for students to realize that their job is to learn, figure out the best way to get the best results from their lessons, and then get about the job of learning.

That, of course is a simplistic answer based on the realities and attitudes of the last century. However, designing resources that can make that an attainable goal is not out of the question, in fact, it''s part and parcel of the solution...

Sarah Danielle's picture

This does pose a great concern. Have soaked up the comments so far, and I am resonating with Mr. Barnes' comment above and many others.

Student-centered activities on how to learn -

Of course, the wonderful projects, activities and discussions in the new learning communities ("classroom" replacements) provide great vehicles for learning. They can also, pragmatically, provide the vehicle for the student to learn how they can make the most of a lecture. Wanted to share a simple and obvious tangible example, which is constructivist in process:

As an exercise, providing small bits of lecture at a time, then giving the students steps to practice how to paraphrase and synthesize the information their way - Many SDAIE exercises can get juices flowing, but beginning with an "old school" approach to an "old school" task, then expanding it out to a student-centered problem-solving activity, makes the journey realistic.

Some step options, using what we all know to do already, and handing the reins to the students:

"Now turn to your partner and share the essence of what I have just said." They can then share verbally and easily in a finite amount of time.

They then jot down on each his/her own index card (old school but effective), what they feel would help them remember that bit of lecture. This can include pictograms, a memory scene, whatever.

They give feedback in class discussion of what worked for them. This way they can glean from each other ideas, realizing those ideas are "allowed."

A list/graphic org can be generated to build ideas of how to handle and get the most from lecture. Solutions are generated by the students.

Another list/graphic org of hurdles to overcome, specific difficulties students are encountering, so that they can come up with the solutions, knowing it will be different for individuals.

Students can prepare bits of lecture to give, on whatever subjects they feel strong in. As always, when they can embrace the learning process as their own, they can handle anything.

blog 30 Techniques to Quiet a Noisy Class

Last comment 1 hour 20 min ago in Classroom Management

blog What I Wish I'd Known as a New Teacher

Last comment 4 days 6 hours ago in New Teachers

blog Ten Websites for Science Teachers

Last comment 2 weeks 1 day ago in Teacher Development

blog Conference Time: Chatting With Parents

Last comment 1 week 5 days ago in Home-to-School Connections

Discussion Avoiding New Teacher Burnout

Last comment 4 days 23 hours ago in New Teachers

Sign in and Join the Discussion! Not a member? Register to join the discussion.