Nobody’s ever taught you anything

by Stephanie Chasteen on September 15, 2008

We remember these great teachers who have taught us so much about the world. But did they really? Some educators firmly believe that you can’t teach someone anything — rather, they have to learn it for themselves. A great teacher is someone who helps make that happen. A great teacher is a facilitator of learning more than an explainer. I’ve often wondered about this, since I certainly remember the great explainers from my past. Did they really teach me nothing? Are great explainers like televisions of education — entertaining and interesting but we don’t actually retain what they try to channel into our brains? I do think this might be the case. When I’ve actively struggled with something already, and just can’t put two ideas together in the right way, a great explainer can help me make the connection that I’ve failed to make. But if I haven’t already struggled with that material, then the explanation is cool and beautiful, but quickly slips through my grasp. In EducationLand, this is called Preparation for Future Learning, or PFL. In PFL we make students struggle with an idea so that they’re prepared to listen to a lecture or to learn whatever material we want them to learn.

I just posted a new episode of my Science Teaching Tips podcast in which longtime educator Modesto Tamez shares some thoughts about how he helps students make ideas their own, so that students learn for themselves. It’s called, you guessed it, Nobody’s Ever Taught You Anything.

{ 1 comment }

Laura September 17, 2008 at 8:43 am

I find this really relevant to a discussion we had at our local CFI meeting regarding the state of science education in public schools, particularly at the elementary education level.

I completely my student teaching in 2004 and graduated, but never did go into teaching. So I draw from limited experience with teaching in public schools, but have taught in various other arenas like through the Girl Scouts and in private childcare centers. I was trained to teach using a constructivist model. To be a “facilitator” and help students draw their own conclusions. Specifically in my science pedagogy class, we participated in hands-on activities that we could potentially use in the classroom. We did a moon journal where we had to draw the moons placement in the sky for a month and we’d discuss it each week. Our professor always modeled how we should be approaching the lesson and it was great to see college students learning things they didn’t even know! I couldn’t wait to do my student teaching and do great science lessons.

However, when I did my student teaching I was saddened to discover that I wouldn’t get to teach science because in my particular school/district, science was taught in only the spring semester. Even then it was only 30 minutes, so I was told. So much time must be devoted solely to reading and math curriculum. I found that in public schools, there simply isn’t enough time to put toward real, hands-on discovery learning. Perhaps its not the same in all schools, but this was my experience.

I do know that in Pennsylvania they will soon be doing mandatory standardized testing in science, just like math and reading. I’m not sure how much this will affect curriculum. Something tells me teachers will be given more time getting kids to memorize science terms, rather than having opportunities to facilitate a learning experience.

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