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white_wolf Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-27-11 10:04 AM
Original message
A question on our education system.
This is a question open to everyone, but I'd especially love to hear teachers and other educators opinions on this. The more I think about my education both in K-12 and currently college, I can't help but wonder if our teaching methods are wrong. To be clear, this isn't an attack on teachers, I think they do great and important work, but rather a criticism of the way they are taught to teach. I really don't like how in schools now the teacher usually sits up front and lectures while the students take notes and prepare for tests. It seems a very forced way of learning, I would prefer a more communicative approach based around open discussion and the Socratic method. For example in history, instead of merely lecturing on the fall of Rome, maybe teachers could have a conversation with their students about why they think Rome fell, what the factors were, and if they see any similarities with other empires in history. Of course, maybe I'm wrong, there could be a good reason why our method is the standard method. Perhaps it has been proven more effective, it's just something I've been thinking of a lot lately.
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raccoon Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-27-11 10:09 AM
Response to Original message
1. What I don't like is the way we were taught to read. The dumbass "look-say" method.

Run, run, run. See Spot run.

that would turn off just about anybody from reading.

Of course, this was in prehistoric times, when I was taught to read. Maybe
the public schools aren't doing that any more.


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white_wolf Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-27-11 10:12 AM
Response to Reply #1
2. That is how I was taught.
They tried to teach us to memorize words and learn to read that way. I had a lot of trouble reading for my first few years in school, but my aunt got me this phonics program for Christmas and it really helped me a lot and now I read several books a year. I don't know how they currently teach reading in schools, though.
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madfloridian Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-27-11 10:15 AM
Response to Original message
3. Most of the teachers I worked with used the discussion method.
We taught phonics, had word games, also some rote.

Sounds like you missed out on that.
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white_wolf Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-27-11 10:19 AM
Response to Reply #3
4. As I said above when I was in elementary school we were taught to read using a memorization method.
Admittedly elementary school is better in regards to what I'm talking about. It just seems like the higher up you go the more you get into classes that seem to be purely lecture based, based around studying for tests, especially the national tests. Like I said I may be wrong in my OP, it's just something I've been wondering. Once, again this wasn't meant to attack teachers, I just have doubts about the way they are taught to teach. I'm not sure it is the best system.
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enlightenment Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-27-11 10:28 AM
Response to Original message
5. Discussion is incredibly valuable, but it has to come from some
base of knowledge. Trying to 'discuss' the fall of Rome with students who have little clue when Rome "fell", much less the multiple theories on why, is an exercise in frustration for instructor and students alike.

History, in particular, requires at least some lecture - can't get around it. I would like to think that my students are coming to class each day prepared for discussion - having read and thought about what they were reading - but that is rarely the case. Some do, of course, and they dominate the discussion simply because they have learned enough to have something to say. For those that are not prepared, trying to elicit commentary is like trying to squeeze blood from a turnip.

Another problem with discussion heavy teaching is the number of students - it isn't easy to foster good debate in a class of 30 or more. Some will dominate; some will shy away; some will use the small mayhem created by so many voices to mentally disappear. Someone will always slip through the cracks and that is very sad.

I suspect, given that you like discussion, that you are one who comes prepared and would dominate discussion. That's great for you (really, it is - it's fantastic to see serious learners), but it may not be the best for your classmates. Instructors have to try and balance the needs of a very disparate group.

On another, related note: most teachers use the Socratic method in one way or another - true Aristotelian teaching is pretty rare, though it may seem like that's all you're getting. Think about it!
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white_wolf Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-27-11 10:47 AM
Response to Reply #5
7. I will think about it. Thank you for the great response.
This is why I really wanted some educators response, since they are out in the field and know what works best. It's easy to come up with theories, but since I lack experience it is great to hear from people who are actually out doing the work.
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enlightenment Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-27-11 11:15 AM
Response to Reply #7
8. You're welcome - glad I could say something that is useful for you.
I seem like you are well on your way to very good things. Best of luck to you!
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exboyfil Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-27-11 12:38 PM
Response to Reply #5
11. You actually mean that the students might actually read the
textbook. I keep pounding reading the textbook into my older daughter's head. My younger daughter has gotten it down a whole lot better because she has done Life Science and Biology via correspondence which has forced her to rely more on the textbook. My older daughter's teachers have a tendency to spoon feed them.

I can understand why the textbooks don't get read though. They are frankly awful with stuff going on all around them (insert panels). I wish they would follow a more linera progression.
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white_wolf Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-27-11 12:46 PM
Response to Reply #11
15. Textbooks are pretty bad.
They are often organized very badly I think, with all the inserts and side panels. Also, some have a way of making even interesting topics dull.
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enlightenment Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-27-11 01:31 PM
Response to Reply #11
19. I agree - there are a lot of horrible textbooks out there.
Edited on Thu Oct-27-11 01:32 PM by enlightenment
I change mine with regularity, searching for something that will provide a fairly non-biased (and all history is biased, of course), comprehensive, and readable overview or outline of the subject at hand. Overall, my students' turn their noses up at books that are text heavy - too many words, I guess *rolls eyes* - but also at those that are a jumble of boxes, filled with snippets of this and that. They prefer linear progression to purely thematic books - most of the time, textbooks try to shoot for the middle ground, which can be confusing and frustrating for them and makes planning lecture a pain-in-the-arse, too. I don't 'follow' textbooks, but if I get too far afield from the path the textbook takes, students' drop the reading - confusion ensues . . .

meh.

Next semester I'm trying out a new series called "WCIV" for European History (formerly Western Civilization). I have no idea how it will go over; I just hope the format will encourage them to read the damn thing, so when they come to class they can participate.

Learning happens in the 'space' - the dialogue between people. If you go with old Socrates, those are the moments that trigger the inborn knowledge - but as I mentioned, it's hard to have a dialogue when only one side of the equation has a clue about the topic.




edited to correct misplaced apostrophe
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white_wolf Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-27-11 01:35 PM
Response to Reply #19
20. On the topic of history books, how much leeway are teachers given in selecting books?
Do they have to choose certain books and do they have to be "text books?" For instance, you mentioned history being biased, which it is. However, most of what we read in history courses seems to follow the "Great Man" theory of history and figures on important historical figures. So a book on American history would focus on Washington, Jefferson, Madison, etc. when discussing the American Revolution. I think it might be useful for students to read other types of history such as Zinn's "A People's History of the United States." Granted, he is biased, but so are "text books", plus Zinn is a lot more fun to read.
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enlightenment Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-27-11 03:08 PM
Response to Reply #20
21. Depends. I teach college level, and we can choose our own books -
sometimes a department will have a preset survey text, just for expediency. My understanding at high-school level is that they have no (or little) choice - some group or body or committee at some level chooses the textbooks each year. That idea gives me the willies.

Everyone loves Zinn - he's a fun read. Read in concert with other books with other slants, he's very useful. As a primary textbook, he's no better than a 'great man' text - it's just a different kind of bias. We may like it better and approve of it more, but that doesn't change the fact that Zinn writes with an agenda (we just like his agenda). He's kind of like Patti Limerick; making up for deficits of past histories - but doing so by leaving out bits that might help someone understand the all-important 'why' of history. His is an important voice, but it is still only one voice among many.

When I was an undergrad, one of my professor's assigned a particular book to the class (upper division Asian History course). We were to read it and write reviews, which would then be shared in class. We had three weeks. After the first week, we were huddling together before and after class, comparing notes on the book. It was a horror - so bad as to be done-right nasty. We couldn't FATHOM why he had assigned this book! Didn't he KNOW how bad it was?

Now, this professor was something of a curmudgeon, known for writing scathing assessments of our work; an "A" was a small miracle, regardless of how well we did. Many of the student's were loath to write a critical review of the book - fearful of the prof's wrath. What if the author was a friend or something?

A few of us did suck it up and wrote what we thought. I know I was sweating bullets when the day came to share the review in class.

Turns out (of course) that he had assigned the book on purpose - to see how many of us would take the plunge and assess it honestly. He told us that not all history is equal - and not all of it is good. It was our job, as historians, to figure that out. We couldn't rely on our teacher - or another reviewer - or the fact that we might know the author . . . or any other factor to tell us what to think about it.

That's how I feel about textbooks. There are some horrible examples that I wouldn't foist on anyone, but most are flawed in smaller ways. It is the job of the students', as historians, to make up their mind not just how they 'feel' about a book, but to determine, honestly and critically, why they feel that way. I'll help them - but I won't hand them an answer.
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exboyfil Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-27-11 04:43 PM
Response to Reply #21
22. I am currently covering U.S. History I in several ways
I have Zinn's book along with Schweikart's A Patriot's History (polar opposites). I am reading the Oxford History of the U.S. (Glorious Cause, Empire of Liberty, What God Hath Wrought, and Battle Cry of Freedom) along with Taylor's American Colonies to cover the Oxford hole. I also have a general textbook used in college - Goldfield American Journey 5th edition.

My daughter will have her own material presented online from Apex Learning, and, as she is taking the High School course, I will be prepping her for the college CLEP on the same material. This will be her first Apex Learning class so I am not sure how it will go. I am only interested in my daughter getting the High School credit through Apex, but I feel that it could do no worse job than my older daughter's current history teacher.

One word of warning about enjoying authors of a particular political bent too much. I was reading The Lies that My Teacher Told Me, and Loewen's stated with absolute certainty that Warren Harding was in the KKK, and that he was inducted while in the White House. This is far from being proved, and Loewen failed to go into the nuance surrounding the accusation. I am reading Zinn's and Schweikart's claims with the same skepticism.

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enlightenment Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-27-11 09:30 PM
Response to Reply #22
25. It sounds like your daughter is going to do just fine.
The most important tool you can bring to bear in history is a critical mind.

History is who we are - and for me, good history has the following:

It comes from multiple perspectives; it demands evidence, sources, argument; it requires healthy skepticism and free thinking; it values resistance and criticism as healthy; it recognizes multiple views of patriotism, and enshrines justice, equality, and human rights.

At least that's what I tell my students . . . :)
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white_wolf Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-27-11 08:37 PM
Response to Reply #21
23. Interesting story, thanks. This leads me to another question.
How reliable are first hand accounts? I'm considering reading Trotsky's History of the Russian Revolution, but I was just curious if you knew what the general consensus within the historical community was to its accuracy?
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enlightenment Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-27-11 09:34 PM
Response to Reply #23
26. I do not know that the current consensus is on Trotsky's history,
but I do know that primary sources are a fundamental tool of the trade. Never used in isolation - never trusted any more than we would trust any other 'eyewitness' account (and we all know how accurate those are) - but invaluable for the perspective of the period and, often, for minute details that open new doors of research.
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Sarah Ibarruri Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-27-11 10:35 AM
Response to Original message
6. Seems to work well in Finland, Denmark, Sweden, Spain, France, etc. etc. etc.
Why would it not work here?
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exboyfil Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-27-11 12:35 PM
Response to Original message
9. Get the most recent issue of Discover
It has an article on this point as it relates to college science majors. Some universities are trying different approaches to better reinforce learning. The problem I see is that learning cannot go on in wholesale. The first problem in K12 is culling the sheep from the goats so to speak. You can't run an inttelligent class with even a few disruptive individuals. Until it is "cool" to learn you will get peer pressure to force children to keep silent.

It may not be PC, but many children refuse to learn. They have no interest in learning for whatever reason. My daughter sees it constantly. I frankly think it starts with the parents and is reinforced by their peer group. Both my daughters' peer group have a word for them - try hards (think our generation's grind).

I spend quite a bit of time (probably 3 hours a night) with my children on their studies. I support them in Science, Math, Social Studies, and English. In a sense my daughters get this exposure from my dedication to them. Frankly I would rather do Algebra problems with them than watch the mindless prattle that is on the boob tube. My one regret is that I can't get enough non-fiction reading in.

Also I hate to say it, but some of the teachers really should not be teaching. They do not have a good grasp of the material they are presenting. The best ones are gold, but I have little patience for the worst ones.
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white_wolf Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-27-11 12:44 PM
Response to Reply #9
13. Thanks for the insight. On a side note I can't decide if your post makes me feel old or young.
I'm too young to hear the term grind used very often, but I've never heard the term try hards.
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Trillo Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-27-11 12:36 PM
Response to Original message
10. Lately I've been wondering why answers on papers and/or tests are marked
"wrong" and correct answers ignored, instead of answers marked "correct" and wrong answers ignored. I believe this may sensitize us as adults to be negative instead of positive. In other words, why do less than perfect students have so much negative reinforcement as opposed to positive reinforcement?

Some of this inner questioning has come about from such DUer questions as why are politicians seemingly always criticized for their bad decisions, but ignored for their good decisions? My answer: Because we are trained that way from a young age.
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exboyfil Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-27-11 12:39 PM
Response to Reply #10
12. Since 80 to 90% of the work should be right
I think it makes sense to mark what is wrong wrong. I also see comments about good work on the papers returned to my daughters. In particular when they solve a particularly difficult problem or have an original insight.
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Trillo Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-27-11 12:46 PM
Response to Reply #12
14. I don't disagree with your title.
However, human relationships are built on positives, and too many negatives seem to have an alienating effect. It is possible this is one of the core techniques used by the 1% (actually, the 0.000001%) to "keep us divided".
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TBF Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-27-11 12:50 PM
Response to Original message
16. My undergrad is in child development, masters in education -
Edited on Thu Oct-27-11 12:50 PM by TBF
my preferred method of teaching is Montessori.

Montessori education is characterized by an emphasis on independence, freedom within limits, and respect for a childs natural psychological development, as well as technological advancements in society. Although a range of practices exists under the name "Montessori", the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) and the American Montessori Society (AMS) cite these elements as essential:

Mixed age classrooms, with classrooms for children aged 2 or 3 to 6 years old by far the most common
Student choice of activity from within a prescribed range of options
Uninterrupted blocks of work time
A Constructivist or "discovery" model, where students learn concepts from working with materials, rather than by direct instruction
Specialized educational materials developed by Montessori and her collaborators

In addition, many Montessori schools design their programs with reference to Montessoris model of human development from her published works, and use pedagogy, lessons, and materials introduced in teacher training derived from courses presented by Montessori during her lifetime.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Montessori_education
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white_wolf Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-27-11 12:58 PM
Response to Reply #16
17. Very interesting. I'll check it out. Thanks.
I'll admit the philosophy lover in me has a bias towards Socratic and Aristotelian methods. However, like all human systems those were far from perfect. Montessori education sounds very like a very interesting and useful method of teaching. I really wish our government would call together a bunch of teachers and people who study education theories and ask them to help devise a system, because our current teaching for test method is just not working. I firmly believe education is one of the most important things we can provide people with, and we should strive to prove the very best that we can.
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TBF Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-27-11 01:21 PM
Response to Reply #17
18. The thing I like best about Montessori is the hands-on approach,
many children (especially boys) have trouble with the sitting & listening to lecture method. Within a Montessori classroom a six-year old might sit and build the Parthenon out of blocks for example, rather than simply reading about it in a book. To learn math they will start counting on an abacus. I've only worked with young children in Montessori so I'm not sure what methods they use in the elementary/high schools, but it is something I'm very curious to learn about.

Many private schools (especially at the preschool level) are using the Montessori method in this country, so parents who can afford it are getting this type of hands-on individualized learning method for their children.

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Laluchacontinua Donating Member (277 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-27-11 08:55 PM
Response to Original message
24. In my opinion, there's no "one" method that's best. The best method depends on
Edited on Thu Oct-27-11 09:00 PM by Laluchacontinua
1) what the material is
2) who the students are
3) who the teacher is

I've had large lectures i found incredibly intellectually stimulating, clearly presented, etc.

i've had large lectures that i struggled to stay awake & take notes in, or so badly organized that i literally *couldn't* take notes.

Same thing with small group discussions; some have been so poorly organized, or the participants so disinterested in the supposed topic of discussion that they were nothing more than a social hour or comedy routine. I would have preferred to just read the text than come to those classes and considered them useless.

On edit: "who the students are" isn't limited to age/grade kind of stuff. it includes stuff like familiarity with the method. I've had classes with lots of first-language spanish speakers and a decent percent of them did not like the discussion method. They weren't trained that way in their home countries and to them it wasn't "school," it wasn't "serious," it was "play". They wanted vocabulary lists, tests and drills. *That* is what "school" meant to them.

And if the students aren't into it, whatever the reason, you either spend a lot of time trying to warm them up to *your* method or you do it *their* way.
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