Episode 200 - Content V. Principles
The Thursday Thesis - 16/4/2020
There are two kinds of teaching, as far as I can tell: first there is the simple spoon-feeding of one fact after another into the student – old fashioned, monkey see, monkey do teaching based on content and regurgitation. This approach works well for simple academic “jump through the hoop” examination schemes of the type used in most schools.
Then there is the second type of teaching, based not on the ability to memorise and recall facts, but on the ability to absorb and apply principles.
Type One, content-based teaching lies in disrepute as teachers are compelled to teach the test or face the wrath of OFSTED and the threat to their jobs. The content teacher’s job is to successfully prepare the student to pass the exam – not to teach them to think.
That’s the state system – which is not surprising, since no state wants its populace to be educated and capable of thought. As one head teacher told me “...(the current state education system)...is a compliance factory complex, designed to turn out compliant and obedient drones who’ll do as they are told: pass the test, tick the box, move on to the next level.”
And then there’s Type Two teaching: teaching based on ideas and principles, creative thought and empowering students to think. This kind of principle-based teaching is harder to do than content-based teaching, usually more expensive, and – of course - it is politically very risky to have a mass of thinking people to keep under control.
Principle-based teaching can ignite a passion to understand and to learn, to question and explore. If we are lucky, the passion lasts a lifetime and every day is a chance to learn, grow, and think.
But, for many people, learning ends when they leave school, armed only with the narrow ability to regurgitate memorised facts and the acceptable answers to questions. Yet I’ve come to believe that learning really begins when one escapes the narrow confines and the straitjacket of content-based teaching.
It is our nature to learn, after all.
Humans are curious animals – as a species, we’re into everything. We can’t not explore, test, experiment, or generally get ourselves into mischief: that’s what humans do.
© Neil Cowmeadow 2020
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