There, I've officially agitated those that will inevitably react with strong opinions when I'm done with this blog post! :)
A little background before I get into this discussion/rant/sharing of my two cents. I have been on twitter with a professional account for approx. 6 months now. In that time, I have developed what I consider to be a valuable PLN. I love that I've connected with colleagues, clients, fellow teachers and fellow SMART Board users -- they've all contributed resources, ideas, opinions and generally just made my online experience wonderful.
One of the most discussed topics amongst those that I follow is that of education reform. This is a hot topic in today's education world, and the focus of countless #edchats, keynote speakers, best selling books and professional development in schools. I've engaged in numerous online discussions, and I really value that I get to see a diverse range of opinions on the subject -- inevitably, this makes me refine and shift my own thinking from time to time.
However, one common thread that I have witnessed throughout all of this online babble -- both the conversations that I've partaken in as well as those that I've simply 'eavesdropped' on -- is that many people seem to have the belief that there is only one 'correct' way to reform teaching.
This concept of "my way is the best way" isn't new, nor exclusive to edreform discussions. But what bothers me about this absolute viewpoint is that there are folks that believe that one approach to teaching is the only way to save education, and that this one way is going to improve learning for every single student.
Enter my opinion:
I believe that a "one size fits all" approach to anything in education is not likely to result in increased understanding by all of our students. Much like those who preach that the current education system isn't meeting the needs of all students because of their various talents, strengths and weaknesses, I believe that teachers shouldn't be forced into a standardized mold. This goes for those who have opinions that span the spectrum from constructivism to the traditional 'stand and deliver' method.
What I want to scream from the rooftops is that I honestly believe that the actual teaching method itself is not the issue. I have read numerous articles praising the benefits of a variety of methods including student centered learning, teachers using storytelling, inquiry based learning and teachers lecturing with visual aids. Why are we still engaged in this battle focusing on what the best teaching method is?
I should probably back up a bit here and state for the record that I do believe that many elements of the education system need to change (starting with the emphasis on standardized tests). I also believe that there are some teachers who probably need some 'pushing' outside their comfort zone. But there are a million more teachers that are doing wonderful things in their classrooms, and instead of pushing those teachers into the 'one right way' we should be helping them refine their skills.
What I really believe could transform the education world is helping teachers discover their talents, subsequently supporting and developing these talents in their classroom, then coaching them in identifying the context when each style should be used. Let's face it -- a teacher who is a strong storyteller may actually be able to get students to 'experience' an event better than trying to fumble to piece together a poorly constructed student inquiry project. Conversely, there are those that are masters at being a facilitator in their classrooms and guiding students' learning through thoughtful questions -- these types might 'lose' their students interest if attempting to provide a 20 minute lecture.
Before I get a zillion comments regarding the fact I might actually be making a case for 'sage on the stage' I want to backtrack and emphasize that a variety of teaching methods should always be used within every classroom. I'm simply arguing that the amount of time spent with each style should not only vary from teacher to teacher depending on the students in each class, but also on each teachers' strengths.
Thanks to @joe_bower @graingered and @xmath2007 for engaging in a recent Twitter conversation on this exact topic recently! Much appreciated :)
Thoughts? Ideas? Opinions? I welcome them in the comments section. I"m especially looking forward to today's #edchat -- as of this posting, the poll shows this topic in the lead!
Oh, and because I'm very much like Chandler in that I usually try to make jokes to ease the tension during a potentially uncomfortable situation, I'm ending with a funny editorial cartoon:
Haha - thanks for taking the time to read my opinion!
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