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Learning and Teaching in Any Setting Published: Sunday, March 31, 2002 By: Dr. Manuel Ángel Morales

The dynamics about educational transformation are very passionated, intense and at many times repetitious. Research about these debates clearly shows that for decades two models of education have co existed on uneasy peace. When tensions have arisen it has created a kind of dialectics between the model in used and an appealing, but less alternative.

These two perspectives or paradigms are the teacher-centered and the active learning (co-produced) approaches. The first one is more traditional, with deep roots in our educational system; the second one is emerging with great possibilities in the new experience economy, where participants interpret learning as a theatre, performing as a forming process for acting their part and finding a reasonable role in the value-adding world.

The classic paradigm is based on the idea of teaching as telling. The primary goal is to transfer information, concepts and models from the expert (the teacher, and it better be that way) to novices (the students), within a management system that controls critical elements of such process as course syllabus, pace and sequencing, and the mode of presentation and evaluation.

This approach dominates modern education and some studies estimate that as much as 80% of class periods are spent in this fashion. It is perfectly understandable. If the purpose is to transfer information, concepts and models, the process is practical, efficient and well understood.

Some eloquent critiques of the teacher-centered approach date back to John Dewey, Alfred North Whitehead, Jean Piaget and Carl Rogers. The challenges to the classic approach are cognitive (capacity for the student to retain information independent of its use); philosophical (to what extent the goal of education is to transfer information); pragmatic (how is this system related to individual performance and if it is the cause of boredom and apathy on the student).

Following John Dewey and others, for years, we have proposed an integrated system of learning where the teacher and students are co-producers of the learning drama. Teaching is a selling commodity. No one can sell unless someone buys… Thus, a teacher never can think that he/she has done a good day at teaching irrespective of what students have learned. The point is that if you are in the learning, knowledge and wisdom business you have to profess an abiding faith in teaching and learning as a shared process.

Only if teachers and students work as true partners will the ultimate end of education – the ability to use knowledge, to think creatively, and to continue learning on one’s own – be achieved. It is possible to integrate both approaches in one paradigm, where students with the help of teachers as true mentors and facilitators, jointly invest in the learning process. We are referring to a collective venture for shaping the content, directions and pacing of classes.

 


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