Sunday, 9 April 2006

Unlearning pedagogy

by Erica McWilliam

This is the keynote paper in the first issue of Journal of Learning Design

Our teaching and learning habits are useful but they can also be deadly. They are useful when the conditions in which they work are predictable and stable. But what happens if and when the bottom falls out of the stable social world in and for which we learn?

This is timely. We know that for developed countries to remain status quo, our next generation needs to be able to work at very high value jobs which means the current industrial-era education system and methodology need serious review and change. (see What will her future be?, What will her future be? 14 months later, What will her future be - 2? and Our world is changing, our schools are failing,....)

Quoting from Carl Roger, Erica argued that "formal education erred in focusing on the skills of the teacher, when it was the learner who ought to be the centre and focus of pedagogy". She went on to identify 7 deadly habits:
  • Deadly Habit No.1: The more learning the better.
  • Deadly Habit No.2: Teachers should know more than students.
  • Deadly Habit No3: Teachers lead, students follow.
  • Deadly Habit No. 4: Teachers assess, students are assessed.
  • Deadly Habit No.5: Curriculum must be set in advance.
  • Deadly Habit No. 6: The more we know our students, the better.
  • Deadly habit No.7: Our disciplines can save the world.

Among these 7 deadly habits, I echo strongly with No.5. Knowledge is advancing too quickly for us to freeze curriculum to meet some metrics of usefulness and applicability based on past experience. However I would also like to caution that a loosen curriculum does not mean a relax of rigour in the depth of treatment in the subject matter.

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