Innovation usually means instructing towards the grain
through Teach Thought Personal
I recently came across this interesting article: Transition from pedagogy to heutagogy and as I championed all of the content it contained, it made me reflect on the inescapable dangers of adopting this and other advanced teachings.
Going against the current can be a lonely experience at times, and while sound theory and instincts are like a nice warm blanket against the cold, a handy survival guide could well be used to help implement new practices. Teachers need to be prepared for the reality of what lies ahead in order to help transform their classrooms and ultimately strengthen their resolve to uphold their chosen epistemology.
Most advanced models of teaching, from heutagogy to constructivism to PBL, are essentially concerned with putting the process and outcomes of learning in the hands of the learner as much as possible. But getting straight to the point, implementing such pedagogy is very messy, requires tremendous patience, a degree of pragmatism, and most importantly, a highly skilled teacher who can de-school his students so they can engage.
1. De-schooling means re-tooling.
As you shift your teaching practice to a style that focuses more on the learner and less on the teacher, be prepared for many students (and parents) to vehemently complain that you don’t teach them, and for the inevitable loss of confidence , which these brutal allegations cause . Never has this feeling been stronger when students with good abilities start complaining. In these times, it can seem like you’re robbing Peter to pay Paul, but to counter an opportunity like this, make sure you have one very good A thoughtful plan and rationale that can be defended should your manager decide to pursue his anger and, more importantly, one that you can talk through yourself in predictable moments of doubt.
Always remember what real learning is and you will be fine.
2. Be pragmatic.
However, it would be prudent to initiate the students with small doses of the new style, to introduce them into uncomfortable territory for many. Imagine the look on most students’ faces when you begin the unit by saying, “Ok, here are the outcomes you need to achieve by the end of the unit, but you shape the learning to achieve them. “That doesn’t just throw the students in at the deep end. This means throwing them out of a helicopter in the middle of the ocean.
They need to create the space and culture to be successful: how to research, how to work collaboratively, how to set incremental goals, how to allocate time, how to work independently. Remember that by the end of high school, students will have had more than 11 years of teacher-led learning, and as they get older they’ve probably been told a thousand times how important it is to get a certain grade, a grade that it can seem to be in jeopardy without the strong guidance of the teacher.
This mix is exactly what I do. I always start a unit with a strong learner based approach and slowly build in a much more guided flow towards the end as we approach the assessment. No matter what anyone says, at the end of the unit we have to be pragmatic: students are being tested for certain learning outcomes and there is a lot at stake for me as a teacher if they are not achieved. However, the overarching goal is to continually manipulate the ratio in favor of learner-based learning.
3. Patience (in big messes) is a virtue.
This is where a lot of patience comes into play. For some groups it may take much longer to become standard practice. You need to remember that being successful with student-centered learning is by no means easy, and therefore you need to be patient with yourself when trying to get it right. You have to be extra patient with the messiness of it all.
The clutter can be overwhelming at times, especially for learners who are largely disconnected from learning. To them it can seem like a free ride, a chance to do nothing, and the compulsion to manage and structure such occasions by resorting to old tricks is strong. In such cases, guidance and coercion along a certain path may be the only chance to keep the dream alive. That doesn’t mean it has to be completely teacher-led. Ensuring that students get to an end result does not mean that there is only one way to get there.
Meaningful bridging strategies are not compromises, but smart decisions to stay afloat.
4. No pain, no gain.
If this all sounds pretty daunting, that’s because it is. But we shouldn’t expect less, because after all, it’s about perfecting teaching models that put a teacher at the top of the game. I’ve fallen off the wagon countless times to list them all, but I keep coming back because I know that learning is far more powerful and, ironically, the mandatory tests ultimately yield better results.
But beyond that, I keep coming back because when it works, the feeling of watching students learn for themselves and take responsibility for their experiences is pure joy and always validates why I love education.
Adjusted image attribution flickr user Dan; Innovation often means teaching against the grain