28 January 2013

Responsive and Evolving Teaching (Not Regimented)

University should no longer be the ultimate goal. (Pictured: University of Puget Sound. It's a beautiful campus.)
So I finished Teach Like a Champion and my overall opinions greatly soured toward the end. In the end, my disagreements with it can almost all be found on the cover:
49 techniques that put students on the path to college
Technical training—especially these days—can be better than college
My department is Career and Technical Education (CTE). One of our emphases is that students have alternatives to college when it comes to career selection. These alternatives are all about technical training, which can put students in a career as soon as right after high school. In today's economic climate, those alternatives are becoming more and more important. Students can no longer get a degree in whatever they want and be able to find a job. It is true that the more education you have, the more money you make, but it's also true that once you can provide for your basic needs, more money will not make you any happier.

Let the kids who are good at academics go to college and get the academic jobs. CTE will take the rest and give them training they can use to find a job they actually enjoy.

Technical training is all about practice, not knowledge
I believe academic and intellectual knowledge comes second to practice. By 'second' I mean it both chronologically and hierarchically:

  • It chronologically comes second in that intellectual knowledge has nowhere to take root unless a person has already built a framework of practice. When you've played around in Illustrator and Photoshop, then you're ready to understand the differences between vector and raster.
  • It is hierarchically second in that being able to do something is more important than knowing how to do something, as reflected in the cliche "easier said than done." A student might be able to easily pass a test about the rules of design and still have no skill actually designing something. It should be a given that ability is more valuable than knowledge in most situations.

Students and classes evolve through the semester
This might be truer for middle school than high school. Nevertheless, I've found that a few different things happen during the semester that changes how you should teach them. First, with discipline, you should start out highly rigid and crack down quickly on misbehavior. Students will quickly understand their limits, and throughout the rest of the semester you merely need to crack down as needed. Second, as students get comfortable with the procedures of the class, they become a lot more independent and you don't need to explain every last detail, which means you can give them more time to work. Third, in most cases, students slowly stop trying hard, and instead do the absolute minimum.

In all three cases, the key is to respond and evolve with them. As they learn their limits, you can give them more freedom. As they learn the procedures, you can let them be more independent. As they start focusing on minimums and quotas, you can give feedback both verbally and academically (grades).

No comments:

Post a Comment