Tuesday, April 19, 2011

What Passes For Teacher Education

Based on my own experiences and what I've read elsewhere (especially since becoming a blogger), I have to believe that this is the rule and not the exception:
Even worse than the book itself were the discussions in class that came out of it. One event in particular stands out. In a chapter that discussed the difference between “knowing” and “understanding”, a chart presents examples of “Inauthentic versus Authentic Work”. In this chart “Practice decontextualized skills is listed as inauthentic and “Interpret literature” as authentic. The black and white nature of the distinctions on the chart bothered me, so when the teacher asked if we had any comments, I said that calling certain practices “inauthentic” is not only pejorative but misleading. I asked the teacher “Do you really think that learning to read is an inauthentic skill?”

She replied that she didn’t really know about issues related to reading. Keeping it on the math level, I then referred to the chart’s characterization of “Solve contrived problems” as inauthentic and “Solve ‘real world’ problems” as authentic and asked why the authors automatically assumed that a word problem that might be contrived didn’t involve “authentic” mathematical concepts. “Let’s move on,” she said.
Oh, it gets so much worse. Go read the whole thing.

I've written about this before, and have even used the example in this (brilliant) comment:
I think we should take the same approach in driver's ed classes. The state driver's manual should only be used as an occasional resource. The students should spend most of their time in driver's seats in authentic traffic situations. What better way to inspire them to figure what needs to be done in order to get back safely. Automobiles and traffic rules, just like mathematics and literacies, are social constructs, and, as such, should be grappled with and (de)(re)constructed by individual students according to their distinct learning styles and points of entry.
But see? We can't teach driving that way. Driving is too important.


maxutils said...

Are you serious?
Let's take this at it's finest base, and assume that you can divide education in to 'authentic' and 'inauthentic'. That helps you, how . . .?
Kudos for having the patience to have a discussion, though.

Ellen K said...

Education classes have become jargon infested echo chambers.

socalmike said...

Pedagogy has its place. Gotta get behind the wheel, though, so to speak, to really learn how to teach. However, the toughest thing to teach, and the thing that more time MUST be spent on, is discipline. Young teachers MUST need to learn that BEFORE they take the stage. It's the Most Important Thing. After 27 years, I wish I had learned that FIRST.

allen (in Michigan) said...

Another data point in support of my observation that education doesn't matter in the public education system.

Nonsense like that described could only occur in a situation in which the skill of teaching was unimportant. And that could only occur if the function of teaching - learning - wasn't important.

Brian Rude said...

The idea that in teaching math we should use real world problems, not contrived problems, has been around for many years. I always thought it was a foolish idea. We need contrived problems for at least two important reasons. First we need a lot of problems. Learning math, like learning anything, takes a lot of practice. In math that means we need a lot of problems. So we contrive them. The real world doesn't supply nearly enough problems. And secondly we need problems that are a good fit to the mathematical ideas being taught. Real world problems are seldom a good fit for any particular pedagogical need. Contrived problems can be adjusted as needed, and hence can always be a good fit for the pedagogical need of the moment. I have expanded on these, and other, ideas in an article on my website, "Problem Based Learning And The Nature Of Mathematics". It's at http://www.brianrude.com/modelm.htm.