Much of our 6 week Teach First training consisted of so much love for “discovery learning”. A typical session might consist of creating a box that could hold 3 ping pong balls:
Constant refrains were “this isn’t like the maths you did at school”, being a “guide on the side, not a sage on the stage” and “the power of collaborative learning”. Readings were all based on constructivism; without twitter, I honestly wouldn’t know about the alternatives.
The result of all this is that you go into school believing discovery learning to be the right way. Diverging from that norm feels wrong, and can make you feel so guilty.
I care so much about the kids. I know all about educational disadvantage. I want to give them a top education. Yet what we had been told was a top education wasn’t giving me the results I’d been promised. Over the first term, I think most of us have found it blimmin’ effective to just tell the kids how to do something, and make them do it. The least successful lessons have definitely been the ones where I’d given the pupils a problem and somehow expected them to fathom a solution out for themselves, just because they were in a group. Having the latter kind of lesson can give you a double whammy feeling of guilt. Not only have the pupils not made the progress, but you feel like you’re not a “proper teacher” because you can’t pull off a lesson like that.
Many “discovery learning” proponents would probably tell me I was doing constructivism all wrong anyway. I wasn’t scaffolding it enough or whatever. But the fact that constructivism can be so readily done badly is just another one of its flaws, in my opinion.
Over Christmas I read DT Willingham’s book on cognitivism. Not only did it make me a better teacher, it really freed me. It freed me to instruct without feeling guilty. It freed me from the confusion of my reality not matching what I’d been told over and over by tutors.
At this point, I’m honestly just baffled by why cognitivism is so sidelined. Is there something I’m missing? I don’t want to lose all my impartiality and just become a Willingham cheerleader, but the alternative just isn’t working for me.