Thursday, March 27, 2008

Answer Man = Obstacle?

The faculty book group was discussing Donald Finkel's Teaching With Your Mouth Shut, so I wanted to take a roll of duct tape to the meeting. Finkel wants us to shut up and let the students (or the book or the activities) do the teaching, but those of us who take up teaching as a profession often like speaking more than listening. The book offers some interesting suggestions for engaging students in the process of inquiry, but I found most interesting Finkel's claim that when we provide all the answers, we "rob the students of their own struggle" and become an obstacle to learning.

Knowing all the answers is how we got where we are, isn't it? Over the years we learned to excel at the process of inquiry and answer enough questions correctly to work our way up to the front of the classroom, where we can serve as founts of knowledge, sources of correct answers.

Now Peter Finkel wants us to shut up--to put wonderful books in front of the students and provide the right circumstances to allow them to struggle toward their own answers. Over the next few weeks we'll be discussing what those circumstances might be, so I guess it's too soon to insist that everyone sit down and shut up. It's just as well that I forgot that roll of duct tape...but I'll keep it handy just in case.

No comments: