Monday, September 6, 2010

John Dewey is an old-head!

A colleague recently asked "How do teachers with different years of experience work collaboratively to engage our students effectively in the classrooms?"  I've been puzzling over a few comments:
  1. Effective teachers use a variety of strategies to meet their students' needs, whether the teachers are 25 or 65.
  2. I remember that, as a student, my best K-12 experiences were when I was collaborating with classmates on projects -- whether in chemistry or history classes.  We could use a variety of approaches to solve problems or unexplained events, we had a degree of flexibility with our use of time, resources were abundant, and we were encouraged to share our findings via unique and creative presentations.
  3. Although I am committed to constructivism, I have found that my students sometimes benefit from a sprinkling of behaviorism.
  4. The biggest challenge for me, whether working with older or younger colleagues, has been understanding, if not agreeing on, the purpose of [public] education.  I think that if school communities could work that out (i.e. "What is the purpose of public education?"), teams of teachers, students and families would be in a better position to provide engaging experiences for students.  
A younger colleague recently told me that Howard Gardner's Theory of Multiple Intelligences was passe because "...he was looking really old."  What does that say about John Dewey (1859-1952)?

And a older colleague protested the use of web-based course-ware (such as this platform) because "Technology won't help the kids [learn]."  In some sense, both perspectives are a-historical.
I appreciate both the sense of immediacy and the sense of caution.  But worthwhile teaching is timeless, and effective teachers use a variety of strategies to engage students.  Always have, and always will.