We teachers are a superstitious lot

September 22, 2007

How have teachers became so proficient at fooling themselves as to what works in education?Maybe it is due to the history of our educational system; we have learned what we do know about teaching due to war and industry. Teach the group of interest to do this and get them out the door. Today it is not that easy since the majority of jobs require individuals who can think and solve complex problems, problems that mere memorization of facts will not help them solve.

The job of educating others is difficult for numerous reasons. Teachers cannot get into the heads of others so, the only way that teachers are able to determine what is working in their instruction and what is not working is with the use of assessment such as tests, quizzes and other assessment tools. The picture that the assessments paint for teachers can often be incomplete and due to the incomplete pictures that assessment gives us, teachers form opinions about what works in instruction and what does not. This incomplete picture comes from the lack of really good assessment tools often used by teachers. Multiple choice tests from test bank questions provided by the text book companies really don’t test learning well, but they do test memorization skills.

So why do teachers operate this way? In my humble opinion I believe that it comes from the way that many teachers are educated and used to being educated. From my observations, people often teach the way that they learn best. It’s a comfort thing. During most teacher education programs, the focus is on classroom management, writing lesson plans and producing a “pretty” portfolio. Due to large class sizes for most teachers, the first few years of teaching are more about keeping the students under control and quiet and then concentrating on instruction. And before anyone begins flaming me, I know that there are exceptions and speaking in broad statements often requires removing your foot from your mouth later.  😉

During this treading water phase, teachers then develop ideas that are incorrect such as learning styles and mindedness and other fallacies that permeate education. Educational research and communication between teachers holds the key to dispelling these myths that teachers hold in their mind and purvey to other new teachers.

I began thinking about this topic after reading Dr. Lowell’s post here dealing with myths that have come to light in my distance education class. Hopefully, in the future, technology may act as a tool to alleviate some of the teachers’ work load so that they can use more of their time to contribute to the refining of how to teach best based upon research instead of just maintaining as we have done for such a long period of time.

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2 Responses to “We teachers are a superstitious lot”

  1. dancingnancy533 Says:

    I would agree with that statement that teachers teach in their comfort zone. We try to use what’s best for us and try to get our students to learn the same way, however it doesn’t necessarily work like that. Students learn in many different ways and we have to broaden our methodologies to reach all of them.

  2. Nate Lowell Says:

    “…people often teach the way that they learn best…”

    Most frequently — and this is so common as to be a cliche — teachers teach the way they were taught.

    That’s why I’m teaching you the way that I am. It’s totally foreign to most of you and at least moderately uncomfortable to some, but it’s the way I want to model teaching in an online environment. You all need to be exposed to “other ways of thinking” about teaching.


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