Saturday, May 14, 2011

No duh, Sherlock?

This article recently came across the AP wire: It's Not the Teacher, but Method That Matters

In it, Seth Borenstein reports a study that followed two different  Canadian college classes, one of which was taught by TAs with "interactive methods," the other taught by an experienced lecturer.  Surprise!  The class taught via interactive methods scored better on assessments.  The physicist conducting the study concludes "there's nothing magical about a particular person."

I have some issues with this.  My initial reaction is something along the lines of, "Uh. Duh."

Then the other part of me says, Oh holy mother of biscuits, this is all the evidence a county needs to mandate scripted teaching. I fear The Powers That Be see this study and say, "See?  Any monkey can do it, you just have to know what tools to use."

Except, correct me if I'm wrong, isn't that what being a professional in any field means?  I can't write computer programs because I'm not familiar with the proper tools.  I don't diagnose illnesses because I don't know the proper tools.  I don't extract teeth because (guess what) I don't know the proper tools.  Nothing "magically" makes a person a dentist.  Years of training and research do.  I wouldn't presume to do any of those jobs until I had the proper training to use all those tools & terminologies.

What makes you a good teacher is that you are out there, seeking, exploring, implementing new tools all the time.  This study confirms that a lecturer with 10, 15, 20+ years of experience is not necessarily a good teacher just because s/he has done the same thing for 10+ years.  S/he is a good teacher because s/he chooses to seek out those interactive strategies.  So, no, there's nothing "magical" about a particular person.  Just a lot of training, self-reflection, and hard work.

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