Academic journal article Education

Improving Teaching and Learning: Three Models to Reshape Educational Practice

Academic journal article Education

Improving Teaching and Learning: Three Models to Reshape Educational Practice

Article excerpt

The work of schools is teaching and learning. There should be no controversy in such a statement. Regardless of one's place in the panorama of educational stakeholders, or one's personal educational philosophy, or one's political perspective on education, it can be agreed without much effort that students go to school each day, and the goal and the efforts of the school and its personnel are that students learn.

What might be considered controversial and potentially open for debate are four conditions affecting teaching and learning, including (1) "what" students will learn, and/or (2) "when" students will learn, and/or (3) "how" students will learn, and/or (4) "what" will a demonstration of successful student learning look like. Despite the universality of public education, there is no lack of opinion as to the purpose of education or the look, shape, and feel of teaching endeavors or efforts and the structure of learning or its outcomes.

It would be a natural inclination to ask in all sincerity, "Which perspective is the right one?" Indeed, one may well ask, "Which perspective of teaching is the right one?" Or, "Which perspective of learning is the right one?" A more inclusive question might be, "Which educational philosophy is best to provide effective teaching and learning?" The response to such important questions is unfortunately not often clear-cut: what makes sense or seems reasonable or even preferable to a particular teacher or a particular student or a particular parent or a particular administrator or a particular legislator is wide open for vigorous discussion or heated argument. No time period in the history of American education has been immune to the multiplicity of ideas regarding teaching and learning available for discussion or argument. Despite the untold discussions and arguments for what could be or might be from the beginning of the roots of American public education, one fact has remained stable over time: all notions and ideas are secondary to the existing educational model, which has been intractably in place for the last 150 years. While alternative perspectives and models of teaching and learning are present, available, and possibly potentially more effective, most are viewed as irrelevant given the present educational structure. The current educational structure impedes our ability to make changes in teaching and learning (Darling-Hammond, 1997; Schlechty, 2005), which could be more effective, practical, useful, relevant, meaningful, or any other descriptor one may choose to use.

The purpose of this article is to present a discussion that illustrates that the current educational structure is ineffective in accomplishing the goals it sets for itself. In particular, when fueled by the Essentialist philosophy, the current structure is in fact an impediment both to teaching and to learning. Then, an alternative to the existing educational model will be offered via three models which offer other educational options for teaching and learning. These ideas and options will be briefly discussed.

The Existing Educational Model

The present educational model has been well documented, described, discussed, and dissected, and it is not the purpose of this article to rehash or re-engage that larger discussion. Instead, there are three aspects of the current educational structure to be briefly discussed to lay the foundation for further discussion: first, the mechanistic model or assembly-line metaphor as the dominant organizational structure of public education entities; second, the predominance of the Essentialist philosophy as the driving basis for conceptualizations and practices of teaching and learning; and third, the reliance on high stakes testing as the dominant measure of student performance and teacher accountability for teaching efforts. Collectively, these characteristics have created a default culture that cannot possibly deliver the high levels of deep learning proponents of education desire or think currently possible. …

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