Thursday, May 27, 2010

Learning and Teaching, chapter XIV: Types of Teaching

In the chapter on 'Types of Teaching' the authors explore classroom methods from lecturing to drilling. They make a contrast between methods that resemble the "old system of Chinese education", which stressed memorization for an exam, with methods that emphasize depth of understanding. Although this book was published in 1918, the issue of cramming for exams hasn't gone away, here or in China. In 'Catching Up or Leading the Way: American Education in the Age of Globalization', author Yong Zhao demonstrates that the educational system in China still stresses the preparation for high-stakes entrance exams to the detriment of deep and/or creative thinking.

Sheridan and White first address the limitations of 'giving information':

It is often said that "telling is not teaching at all". The method certainly has many disadvantages...In the first place, people forget most of the things that they are told. Still another difficulty is that at the end of a course of lectures the students are often little better able to find out things for themselves than they were at the beginning.  

Gregory says something similar in the chapter on the teaching process ('The Seven Laws of Teaching'):

The chief and almost constant violation of this law of teaching is the attempt to force lessons by simply telling. "I have told you ten times, and yet you don't know!" exclaims a teacher of this sort, who is unable to remember that knowing comes by thinking, not by being told.

Althought these authors recognize there are some benefits to "telling", they assert, I think rightly, that this method should be used only rarely in classrooms of younger students.

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