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Teaching is a Thoroughly Overrated Practice

Posted on the 19 January 2012 by Combi31 @combi31

This is reply to a comment on THR Network”I can come to the conclusion that people want to speak foreign language ( and the most of all English, for different reasons), but don’t like the procesus of learning, acquiring the knowledge and the skills…. that’s a challenging point for all professional teachers?”Interesting points made Jana!All I would say is that there is a difference between teaching and learning and I have to agree with Carl Rogers, in as much as I believe that teaching is a wholly overrated practice and is, again in my opinion, practically useless for adult learners.Adult learners don’t need to be taught things, apart from how to tap into their own experiences and their own learning process. There is a difference between a lesson that was enjoyed by the learners and one which was useful and rewarding and they do not both have to share the two qualities.I’ll give an example, I don’t meet many learners who enjoy being filmed and even less who then enjoy self-evaluating the film at the end of a training session, however, I haven’t met many, neither who find the exercise fully rewarding and effective in bringing about heightened self-awareness. Of course the self-evaluation needs to be set within a framework of looking at specifics agreed beforehand and not juts “oh, doesn’t my hair look untidy etc.”.Teaching, as I understand it, implies a transfer of a body of knowledge from one source – usually the teacher – to the learner(s), but there is no guarantee that this transfer, called teaching, really works.Firstly there is often a mismatch of power dynamics, where the teacher chooses both the matter and the way it will be ‘transferred’, which doesn’t always take into account the learner’s preferred learning style nor the way in which acquisition will be verified.Of course I am talking about adult learning, where the power dynamics need to be squarely aligned to the learner and not the teacher and implies a high level of choice for the learner.There would seem little point of anchoring any form of learning within a fixed context due to the speed of change both in life and in the workplace – this is what I call content-based learning. Obviously there are times when content needs to be learnt, but the question remains as to how long this will remain pertinent and useful.It would seem much more logical to concentrate on the process of learning which can then be transferred to other spheres of life – as soon as the process is optimised, it can then be re-used again and again. This involves change, and the acceptance of change – all good learners are equipped to manage and deal with change, that is what learning is all about.Being aware of our own learning involves an enhanced level of self-awareness and introspection along with the ability to put current habits and practices into question – basically, if what you are doing isn’t working – try something else.The difficulty is in letting go of received ideas and habits which we are convinced work, but in fact do not.In order for change to happen, learners have to be prepared to ‘fail’. However, if a learner is able to explore why they ‘failed’ then we are getting somewhere – unfortunately many adult learners are not prepared to accept ‘failure’ as part of the package that accompanies the actuation of their learning process. And, if they are not prepared to fall down sometimes, then they will never be able to run.Anyone who has tried skiing will know exactly what I am talking about here – in order to learn effectively you will have to dare to fail!It is then how the learner is able to think about why they ‘failed’ and then try out other ways of reaching the goal – often the biggest hindrance in any learning event is ourselves!To get back to the original point, language teaching does not and will never work as it sets out to transfer knowledge which is more or less useful – but never fully effective.In my opinion the only way to go is to help facilitate learning, in the truer sense of the term and to enable learners to take responsibility for their own learning process so that they become the catalyst of change and thus learning and not passive onlookers.

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