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The controversy over the efficiency of U.S. standards and patterns of education has long been around. Although the traditional approach to education has remained largely unchanged over the last century, the American education became, perhaps, the most democratic and integrated as compared to the majority of other countries. As far as the science concerned, the 1960’s brought the curriculum revolution in this field with new content added to the educational approach. The hands-on activities were generally reduced in favor of more complex and abstract concepts (Slavin, 2002). While the efficiency of this practice is being discussed by scholars and various participants involved, the presented case study demonstrates the actual advantages and disadvantages imposed both on a teacher and his students.
One of the issues brought in this case is teacher-student interaction and the extent to which this interaction should be brought. As opposed to typical pedagogical pattern that involves didactic authoritarian approach to classroom management, the teacher in this case is rather open, friendly and communicative with his students. If we look at the recent studies in educational psychology, we will find that such approach is broadly welcomed by current scholars. They argue that authoritarian approach to teaching the curriculum brings no benefits to students, who become capable of nothing else than performing rote and repetition from teachers, while their critical thinking abilities are not being practiced (Krause, 2003). However, it is important to define the extent of this interaction, because no extreme is beneficial. In the presented case we see that teacher engages in dialogue with his students about the amount of homework they should perform. He then accepts their terms rather than setting a compromise or leaving his terms unchanged. This can grow to a bad habit for students, since once they realize their power to persuade the teacher to agree to their terms, it will get harder for the teacher to defend his position and put forward his curriculum requirements in the future. Besides, the true benefits of education are achievable only by means of independent studying, especially when it comes to math that requires a lot of exercising and practice, and therefore if the teacher doesn’t make it hard for students to learn a certain curriculum, they will never get to the point of acquiring necessary skills in order to proceed in their studying (Eggen, 1995).
Another important issue brought by the above mentioned case is the extent of students’ motivation, which should always be a solid teacher’s responsibility to implement. While the subject of motivation is being thoroughly studied and examined, when it comes to practical achievements, the majority of teachers cannot boast with any significant results (Eggen, 1995). One of the reasons is because they refuse to practice classroom motivation, assuming in old-fashioned manner that education is a must for everyone and no further explanations required. Others attempt to implement this practice, but lack professional experience or theoretical grounding for this matter. As a result, students are told that education will bring them long-term benefits, such as high-paid job and social security, but this doesn’t appear to be much convincing in a short-term run, when students are less worried about their future and much worried about their present (Shulman, 1998).
The presented case demonstrates low motivation of students and even fear of being called up to the board to demonstrate their knowledge. As it is mentioned in the beginning of scenario, the subject of decimals is none’s favorite subject and therefore none feels motivation to learn it except for the need to pass the exam. This simultaneously brings two issues for discussion. First, the teacher makes a mistake by expressing his own lack of excitement for studying the decimals and his behavior shows that it’s a must-do for him as well. While this may be true for him as a person, he should not forget his responsibilities as a role model and authority for his students, and therefore he should be careful with expressing his personal views, because they are automatically accepted as the ultimate truth and followed by the rest of his audience. The second issue brought to the point of discussion is that although this teacher works hard on giving interesting and practical examples of using the decimals calculation in real life, no other motivation is given to students to learn the calculation techniques. The educational process would bring more benefits for students if it is both fun and exciting. The best way to achieve it is to create the competition environment, which not only implies to grades, but also to social activities created to enhance learning of decimals or any other subject in math.
Although my suggestions may sound as a return to teacher-centered classroom, they aren’t. Instead of going to extremes, the education should not only focus on highly-dynamic interaction and student’s satisfaction, but also on the quality of knowledge they perceive. If the educational process is only concerned with poring the greatest amount of knowledge to the greatest number of students, providing the general overview and abstracts, especially when the precise sciences are concerned, than at a certain point students will experience the gap that will not allow them to proceed with studying, since in order to lean one subject they are required to have a background in another (Slavin, 2002). The issue may raise not only in a high school or college, but also during the process of acquiring new knowledge in the professional sphere, e.g. for raising the level of one’s skills, etc. Of course, the approach with constant repetition, practice, frequent recall, recitation and tests will not lead to the expected results, and therefore it is crucial for current scholars to reconsider their findings and find optimal solutions for quality long-lasting educational benefits.
While new theories of educational psychology may be on their way, today it is crucial that teachers are encouraged to establish high-achieving learning environment that will benefit all students. In order to support learning, the instruction techniques should therefore be combined with the most advanced curriculum, provided that such learning environment will encourage students to solve complex problems, to explore new ideas, to consider important issues, and to involve students in cultural activities and professional experiences.
- Eggen, P.; Kauchak, D. (1995). The teaching of educational psychology: A research agenda. Paper presented at annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, San Francisco.
- Krause, K., Bochner, S. & Duchesne, S. (2003) Educational psychology for learning and teaching. Southbank, VIC: Thomson Learning.
- Shulman, L. S. (1998) Theory, practice, and the education of professionals. Elementary School Journal, Vol. 98(5), pp. 511-526.
- Slavin, Robert E. (2002) Educational Psychology: Theory and Practice, Seventh Edition. Pearson Allyn & Bacon