Outdated practices

Image source
I was thinking today about change. We all desire change, but not many of us want to change ourselves. Irony.

Well, time moves on, doesn't it? New technologies emerge, outmoded devices are discarded; old buildings are knocked down to make way for new ones, and children grow up fast. Everything is changing, except perhaps in schools. School is the main experience for children, the key influence on their preparation for the future. So why is it so difficult to get schools to keep pace with the rest of society?

So I posed a question on Twitter for my professional learning network:

The responses came thick and fast, from educators across the globe. Very few were about technology. Almost all focused on teacher methods and student activities. In short, many teachers saw a need to change pedagogy.

Danne Levy, an English teacher in Tamworth, England, said that teaching to the test needs to stop. It has been imposed on teachers because funding bodies want to measure everything, and testing has become a priority. Children are therefore presented with a narrow experience, because there simply isn't enough time to deal with content that won't appear in the tests. On the topic of assessment, Matt Bury, teaching in Guelph, Canada, said that norm referenced grading had to go.

Naomi Barnes, a Brisbane educator zeroed in on homework as outmoded. She argued that it was for an era where only one parent worked. Today, if the child struggles with their homework, they will spend more time fretting and being anxious than learning, so is it time to ditch this idea?

In the UK, Leicester based educator Terese Bird thought that we need to put a stop to purely didactic instruction. For many this teaching method is linked to rote learning which is a particular dislike of Paul Kleiman, who also echoed the earlier sentiments about homework. On the subject of didactic teaching, Harvey Alvy, a school principal in Washington state, USA, thought that lectures work with one group but not another, so teachers need to be aware of group differences. Timothy Leffert, teaching in Kansas, USA, called lecturing the 'sage on the stage' implying that we really need to see the student take more of a centre stage of the learning process.

Individual differences were also seen as a pedagogical battlefield. Iowan High School teacher Tim Scholze raised the ugly spectre of identifying learning styles, still the bane of reason in many school classrooms, while Melissa Techman, a librarian at a school in Virginia bemoaned a lack of differentiation. We clearly need to treat all children as individuals, and one size has never fitted all.

Phillip Moss, a teacher based in Auckland, New Zealand, had plenty of gripes about outmoded practice. He suggested we need to see the back of 3 hour written exams, school bells and rows of desks. However, his most telling and insightful comments were around the need to situate learning in authentic contexts, with 'real world connection' - something echoed by Matt Bury, and a sentiment that many other teachers would agree with wholeheartedly.

Finally, Cal Armstrong, a mathematics teacher in Oakville, Canada, was highly critical about some of the recent 'fads' in education, including flipped classes (another buzz word for homework?) and interactive whiteboards. The latter, others thought, had failed to offer significant benefits to students. And on the subject of fads, Jocelyn Sanders, teaching in Delaware, thought that repackaging old ideas as new buzz words was something we would all be better off without, especially the recent focus on 'grit'.

Comments are still coming in, and you're welcome to add yours below, but I would like to thank all those who took part in this impromptu discussion around outdated practices.

Creative Commons License
Outdated practices by Steve Wheeler was written in Auckland, New Zealand and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.


Ms. Schneider said…
Yes but difficult to change mindset of generations of practitioners even if outdated practices are noted!
Sanna Ruhalahti said…
I suppose that there are also some country specific practices as well some variations between primary education and higher education.

Popular Posts