kitchen table math, the sequel: scratch Columbia off the list

Saturday, March 2, 2013

scratch Columbia off the list

From The Fundamentals of College and University Teaching
by Steven Mintz, Director, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences Teaching Center Columbia University:
In recent years, a model of higher education that emphasized the transmission of knowledge and skills has given way to a new paradigm, which shifts the focus from the instructor and toward the student. This is a shift from transactional to transformative teaching.

In transactional teaching, an instructor conveys information and students are expected to assimilate and synthesize new knowledge on their own.

Transformational teaching, in contrast, is much more self-conscious about its objectives and methods. It adopts a learner-centered rather than an instructor-centered approach...It gives students assignments that they find meaningful, involving case studies, real-world data and problems, research and inquiry, and encourages them to public display their findings.


Teaching can be didactic, emphasizing the transfer of information. It can be philetic, in which the teacher serves as role model and mentor. It can be evocative, assisting students in discovering the personal meaning of a topic or text, rather than seeking some larger truth. Then there is heuristic teaching, which engages students in a process of inquiry and discovery to help them develop the habits of a particular discipline.
Didactic, philetic, evocative, heuristic --- killer list! that it?

Only four kinds of "teaching"?

Aren't there others?

Other kinds of teaching, like .... off the top of my head ... irresponsible.

Irresponsible teaching. That's one, definitely.

Or unaccountable. That's another.

Irresponsible .... unaccountable .... ineffective ..... oppressive .... depressive ..... unsound .... unhinged .... harebrained....

I could go on.


MagisterGreen said...

"There is, indeed, in each living creature a collection of forces and functions; but education means producing these in particular shapes and training them to particular purposes, or it means nothing at all. Speaking is the most practical instance of the whole situation. You may indeed 'draw out' squeals and grunts from the child by simply poking him and pulling him about, a pleasant but cruel pastime to which many psychologists are addicted. But you will wait and watch very patiently indeed before you draw the English language out of him. That you have got to put into him; and there is an end of the matter." - GK Chesterton

I never will understand why such a simple and essential idea is so hard for so-called 'educators' to grasp.

momof4 said...

I love harebrained. Add INEFFICIENT to your list. If the ed world has any awareness of the concept of efficiency, or interest in it, it's well-buried. Even if two instructional methods are equally effective, if one takes twice the time, it should be used rarely; there is a finite quantity of time and it shouldn't be wasted. Working in groups and discovery are huge time sinks! This is especially true in high-need schools, where kids start out far behind their advantaged peers.

SteveH said...

I find the report very interesting. It's for those who are looking toward a career in teaching college; those with degrees in other areas who haven't already been indoctrinated by ed school philosophy. It talks about the importance of being good teachers and how college teaching requires more than the ability to bring in research dollars. Of course, the goal of the report is to give a condensed statement of typical ed school philosophy.

So, what do colleges expect to hear from applicants about teaching phiulosophy? Do you have to spout off this stuff to get into a tenure-track teaching position? Are the humanities positions different than the science and engineering positions? What does Ed think about this? Are college departments fighting over whether this pedagogy is important or not? Are they putting more emphasis on teaching rather than research?

I've noticed that some college professors and administrators are influenced by this ed school Kool-Aid; the hands-on group learning meme. Never mind that many departments have offered (forever) a cap-stone course that does this sort of thing. Some want to use the pedagogy to drive every course.

How much of this philosophy is penetrating into the department level?

Anonymous said...

I once read that the closer its proximity to Teachers' College, Columbia, the more likely a school is to be run according to the latest fads (quackery?). It's likely to be short on common sense, too, I'd guess.

Catherine Johnson said...

Anonymous - that is hilarious! You heard that here! From me!

It's a Meme!!!!!!!

I've created a meme!!!!!!

Catherine Johnson said...

I have to start reading Chesterton!

(I have time, now that I've finished reading Great Expectations....which took only 2 years. Or possibly 3. I lost count somewhere along the line.)

Where should I start?

Catherine Johnson said...



I know I've mentioned a number of times that by the end of C's career in the middle school here I felt as if the school were scooping up huge, heaping at loads of his childhood & dumping them in the trash.

Robin said...

I came to see how your CCSSI seminar went Catherine since I am such a pessimist on what the Common Core is really intended to do.

That way I describe colleges and universities these days is the dominant view is that their job is to create a desired worldview in the student about what the world in the future should be like. Student-centered always means changing the students' values, attitudes, feelings, beliefs, and thus hopefully human behavior.

The less common role is the old transmission of knowledge we all hope we are getting. Sometimes the same school can have both in different departments. The more prestigious the school, unfortunately, the more likely to have influenced virtually all departments.

I would add Stanford and Chicago to Columbia as places where the dominance of the behavioral science approach in the Ed Grad School swept many other departments. Making social science theory and gaining its implementation huge drivers.

I have said this before but what is driving the changes to higher ed are the accreditation agencies as well as the Bologna Process the UN and the EU have been pushing. Has swept Australia and NZ as well and Arne Duncan has signed up the US as well.

The Social Dimensions aspect of Bologna virtually guarantees a shift to social interaction and coursework that is group oriented to allow for Credentials for All.

Anonymous said...

From what I can see at University of California, teaching effectiveness is not particularly prized by the administration nor by the promotion process. Low-cost teaching (huge classes) is prized by the administration and popular teaching (high ratings on student feedback) is somewhat valued in the promotion process.

Ed school fads are mostly ignored by other faculty, though occasionally a technique that seems interesting will be tried out, with mixed results. When someone finds something that works in their large classes, there is a tendency for that approach to spread (slowly), but small-class techniques tend not to spread, as they are usually labor-intensive.

Teaching used to be more highly valued here, but lately everything seems driven by how much money is brought in—dollars have replaced many more meaningful measures of quality.

Anonymous said...

"Transformational teaching, in contrast, is much more self-conscious about its objectives and methods. It adopts a learner-centered rather than an instructor-centered approach..."

As a teacher who tries hard to ignore the endless flavor-of-the-month, jargon-filled, content-free writing that passes for deep, philosophical and important breakthroughs in education, I shouldn't read this BS. It is so thoughtlessly insulting. Apparently, if I actually teach content, I am self-unaware and egocentric. The idea that I might care about my students as much as these guys do, that I might plan my lessons while fully self-conscous of my objectives and methods has apparently not occurred to them. I think my methods ARE transformational. My (completely self-aware) goal is to transform my students from ignorant of the content and methods of our subject matter to, well, a lot less ignorant. Note that this goal is COMPLETELY student-centered. But these guys call it "transactional" -- like I am some dirty prostitute, selling test grades in exchange for mere knowledge of the subject matter.

One last thing and then I'll call it a rant: these fancy-pants Columbia guys can engage in this nonsense because someone before them did the dirty work...

K9Sasha said...
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