Of Teaching Styles
It has become customary and obligatory for every educator (be it a homeschooling parent, a formal educational institution, a tutor, a professional teacher, or some variant of some/all the above) to avow a favored ‘teaching style’. As a matter of theatrical interest, such pronouncement on the part of the educator traverses a broad spectrum of narrative style that includes the mildly pompous, the unbearably patronizing, the ideologically rabid, the confused rambling, the honest and convincing declaration and several derivatives of all the above. In any event, this is peripheral to the core issue of legitimate teaching styles and philosophies that do exist and have evolved over time.
As nothing more than a reference point for interested parents and students, we present a pithy overview of the more durable styles that have come to be.
For a more exhaustive treatment of this subject, browse this article.
Here’s a summary of the popular teaching approaches listed in the article –
- The Traditional approach is a world of graded textbooks, workbooks, calibrated and age-based curriculum, teacher/student records, manual, tests, milestones and everything else that most traditional schools have administered over the years in a classroom setting. Its easy to do, has been done countless times and is a regimental classroom-oriented approach that places little creative or other burden on the educator. The primary drawbacks to this are a commoditization of the teaching/learning process, marginalization of the non-standard and atypical child, and a force-feed of generic and non-customized content into young and questioning minds. Think large schools with large classrooms and large student bodies.
- The Classical approach, popularized in the early 20th century, is credited with the development of some of the greatest minds in history. It has a strong intellectual and literary core with highly scholastic teaching that encourages spectacular independent thought and development. It revolves around a set of teaching tools called Trivium that are administered in 3 distinct stages called the Grammar, Dialectic and Rhetoric stages; these broadly correspond to Elementary, Middle and High School. The Classical Approach requires genuine erudition and intellect on the part of a parent/teacher in addition to an eco-system with strong literary and classical roots. This probably puts it beyond the reach of most Indian schools and teachers especially the self-proclaimed progressive ones. The traditional lacuna is a penchant for over-emphasis on ancient classics and disciplines
- The Unit Study approach focuses on deep-dive treatment of independent study units while integrating various disciplines around the selected topic of unit study. So a study of airplanes would weave in issues related to physics, math, environmental science, geography and history to result in an integrated treatment of a theme. Whilst engaging for the student, this approach hinges on some measure of teaching competence without the benefit of a standard curriculum and with the risk of leaving large gaps in the overall learning process. Nonetheless, the flexibility of topics and the neutrality to age makes this a popular choice for Montessories and early learning centers.
- The Living Books and Life Experiences approach is a child-centric style that encourages close contact with the real world as exemplified by nature walks, museum trips, and such like in the world around the child, and allows the child’s curiosity and interrogation to drive the learning process. It is credited with developing independent thinking without peer pressure, but may neglect traditional rigour and academic excellence that possibly is still a benchmark for professional progress.
- The Unschooling approach is free-for-all that begins with throwing the rule book away. Teaching is an amorphous and fluid discipline that is formulated with varying weightage given to nature walks, self-directed study, real-world ecounters, and anything else that the teacher and student are able to justify with a clear conscience. At its worst, its impossibly flaky and difficult to articulate, and at its best, its probably no worse than anything else.
There is a sixth category termed The Principle approach whose overriding theme is the restoration and reinforcement of Christianity and Biblical principles. For reasons related largely to our ineptitude, we exclude this from the scope of this feature.
Defacto, one needs a final category – call it Eclectic – which is a placeholder for any new derivative of all the above that one formulates and pursues with conviction.
There are numerous tomes on each of the above, some of which make for interesting reading. Sadly, several educational systems could bumble down one of the myriad paths afforded by the above with little or no accountability. A parent, however, with greater vested interest, could with some dedicated experimentation plow a not-so-lone furrow with significant dividends for a child.