This reminds me of John MacBeath’s observation that one of the most important lessons to come out of more than forty years of literature on school failure is that “teachers must recognize the limitations of teaching and become much more sophisticated in their understanding of learning”. MacBeath – Professor Emeritus in the Faculty of Education at the University of Cambridge – made this observation in 1993, and one could argue that we have become much more sophisticated in our understanding of learning, and arguably we have. However, for this to make any actual difference to learning, one would also have to argue that we have become much more sophisticated in our teaching for learning, especially independence of learning through inquiry, which is arguable.
There are no doubt many and complex reasons that combine to make “moving students as well as their teachers toward grasping the principles of inquiry an extremely formidable task” (see first post above). While these need to be addressed, perhaps we first need to take step back and ask why the effort required for this extremely formidable task is both worthwhile and an urgent necessity. What is at stake if we don’t make the effort, or make the effort but do not succeed?
I happen to be reading Neil Postman’s The End of Education: Redefining the Value of School, in which he writes (pp. x-xi):
Without a transcendent and honorable purpose schooling must reach its finish, and the sooner we are done with it the better. With such a purpose, schooling becomes the central institution through which the young may find reasons for continuing to educate themselves.
Might these be connected?
MacBeath, J. (1993). Learning for Your Self: Supported Study in Strathclyde Schools. Strathclyde : Strathclyde Regional Council.
Postman, N. (1999). The End of Education: Redefining the Value of School. New York: Vintage Books.