Alex Moore 2000: Teaching and Learning – pedagogy, curriculum and culture
These are my personal study notes, I might have not covered everything because first and foremost I’m writing these notes for myself in order to pass my exams. However I’m posting them here on my blog too if someone is interested 🙂 No copyright infringement intended. Don’t sue me, I have no money. I am student teacher.
Moore’s book introduces first models of teaching and learning and then looks at teaching and learning in relation to education, language and culture. Then he ponders the question ”what makes a good teacher” and finally explores pedagogic and curricular alternatives.
Moore invites the teacher to reflect on the issues the book raises and it does not offer solutions or teaching ”tips”. Through reflecting , discussion with colleagues and further reading a teacher begins to refine their own educational theory that works best in their own school context.
Every school teacher operates according to a theory, whether it is more consciously formulated or less consciously having little or no reference to published theory.
Moore briefly presents the theories of Skinner, Piaget, Vygotsky and Bruner. (Because there is wikipedia, I won’t write about them here.)
Moore then examines what education is and what we might think it is. While we might have quite different ideas of what education officially is, possible unofficial reasons for educating through school system might indeed be following:
– is designed to meet the changing needs of capitalism -> maintaining the dominant social classes in their position of domination
– promotes certain values and morality: again preserving class structures and reducing profit damaging crime.
– promote various forms of competition, including patriotism, to maintain the status quo and increase profit margins.
– compensates disintegration of organised religion and parental ”failings” -> alternative method for social control.
– a convenient way of regulating labour supply, also women can work while the kids are at school.
– ensures, through the coexistence of a private and public sector, that there will be owners and managers and the ”workers”.
Moore poses a few questions about education and schools:
- should curriculum emphasise ”process” or ”content” (or both)?
- does the school curriculum meet or fail to meet the demands of the rapidly changing world? What might be missing for the existing curricula?
- Does the curricula preserve the inequalities in the society or promote the development of happier, more rounded, empowered individuals?
Language has the power to control, to limit and to confuse as well as to empower, to liberate and to illuminate. Teacher’s use of language in the classroom is as important as the language that is used by the students themselves. Teachers need to recognise, build on and make use of the students’ existing and developing language skills. Students need to learn how to use a wide variety of language forms in a wide variety of learning and social contexts. Students need to be culturally and critically literate, not just basically or functionally literate.
Of multicultural classrooms
A teacher should recognise that all students are different and that their ways of perceiving and of learning are also different. If a student does or produces something that is not what was required, a teacher should ask: could this be a cultural issue? The school curriculum is not ”God-given” and a teacher should understand this. Other curriculum might be equally valid. A teacher should also understand that all students are able and intelligent, and if they fail academically, there are likely to be many contributory factors that have nothing at all to do with innate ”ability”.
Effective schools listen to and learn from students and their parents and try to see things from the students’ point of view. Such school is willing to reappraise and adapt school practices in the light of these. They consider the ”whole child” by linking academic achievement with the mental and physical welfare of students.They work on strategies for preventing exclusion and provided clear written policies for dealing with negative behavior constructively and with compassion. Students of all ethnic backgrounds and with all kinds of learning needs were treated as potential high achievers. Schoos also were sensitive to the identities of students and made efforts to include in the curriculum their histories, languages, religions and cultures.
Moore summaries the issues on culture in classrooms:
– School curricula are not neutral but socially constructed. They tend to be culturally biased and therefore to operate in the interests of dominant groups within society at the expense of non-dominant groups.
– They do this selecting and validating – through apparently ”objective” syllabuses and examination criteria (certain skills, knowledge, calues, modes of behaviour and forms of presenting and representing knowledge relate much more to the cultural norms of some groups (euro-centric!) than others).
What makes a good teacher?
Moore looks at the question through three models: the charismatic model, the competence model and the reflective model. However he also notes that it is suggested that no single model provides an adequate description of the good teacher: there are many different kinds of good teacher and good teaching as there are many kinds of good learners and good learning.
Charismatic subject and the teacher as a communicator
Many times when thinking about good teachers (from our own past maybe) the emphasis is on the teacher’s personality – the teacher is a charismatic subject -> implication of this is that good teachers are born not made. We see great teachers in movies (Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society comes to mind ;)) who identify themselves with the students more than the faculty staff, rely on their subject knowledge, inherent popularity and inspire students. They are institutional rebels fighting with the students against such things as petty school rules. These kinds of vision however have an unfortunate effect of making life very difficult to student teachers (!!!) when , in classroom they find themselves unable to win the respect of the students, or emulate the behaviour of those charismatic, born-into-teaching teachers.
However the notion of charismatic teacher shouldn’t be dismissed too easily either. As it is quite often said ”a successful teacher has to remain true to who they are”. The charismatic teacher has to be able to communicate clearly, purposefully and interestingly to an audience comprising individuals with very different backgrounds and psychological make-ups. A more useful term instead of the ”charismatic” teacher might be ”communicative” teacher.
The teacher thinks carefully about how they ”self presents”, and the aspects they consider might include these:
– how to position oneself physically in the classroom
– how to display, through appropriate body-language, a genuine interest in what students say
– knowing when to talk, when to listen and when to interrupt
The competent practitioner
The notion of the competent teacher has its roots in books of practical advice for teachers on such matters as controlling classes and individuals, making sure lessons are interesting, accessible and well-thought out, planning for and assessing student work and working constructively with colleagues.
– knowledge and understanding of the subjet area
– planning, teaching and class management
– monitoring, assessment, recording, reporting and accountability
– other professional requirements
The reflective practitioner
The discourse of the reflective practitioner emphasises not so much the acquisition or development per se of the skills and areas of knowldge required for successful teaching, but rather the particular skills needed to reflect constructively upon ongoing experience as a way of developing those skills and knowledge and improving the quality and effectiveness of one’s work.
Student teachers should take into account the ”whole picture” of their teaching, analysing effectiveness of a lesson or series of lessons not simply by measurable outputs such as their students’ test scores, but through an attempt to evaluate what was learned, by whom and how more effective learning might take place in the future.
Requires careful ecaluation on the teacher’s part of their own classroom performance, planning and assessment, in addition to and in conjuntion with evaluationss of students’ behavious and achievement, in ways that seek to problematise the taken-for-granted assumptions of everyday life and practice.
The teacher-strategist draws from the differenct discourses or models of the goog teacher and on a range of specific approaches and responses, in order to construct an appropriate professional identity that will promote a reasoned, proactive response rather than a prodminantly self-blaming or reactive one, to the full range of classroom stiuations including those that present major difficulties. The precise strategies themselves are worked out by the teacher in response to the situation, and are as likely to draw on lists of competences as on the less formal, ongoing advice offered by colleagues during the course of practice.
To summarise a good teacher:
– needs to be strategic in their work and draw eclectially on a range of models of professional practice.
– to be effective communicators who are able to be reactive and spontaneous as well as proactive and well prepared.
– need to be competent, and students and their parents need to be confident of receiving the same quality of education across all schools.
– needs to be reflective of their own practice, carrying out thoughtful, constructive evaluations of their teaching in order to develop improved future practice.
– needs to be reflexive. Reflexivity seeks to explain and critique not just classroom situations but the ways in which we are constrained to experience and respond to them. Aknowledging the complex nature of self and the way in which selves are constructed through experience and through social structures.
– needs to perveice themselves as researchers and theorists as well as practitioners. Evaluation and critique of their own current practice! -> more effective future practice.
Working with and against official policy: pedagogic and curricular alternatices
It has recently been suggested that teachers have, by and large, become less overtly political and ideologically driven than they once were. Teachers prefer to categorise themselves professionally as eclectic or pragmatic rather than as ”traditional” or ”progressive”. Teacher may have reset their sights on local rather than on national or universal sites of action. The classroom remains a site where, in spite of increased monitoring and surveillance, inventive, creative and imaginative teachers can still pursue and develop what they perveice as good practice while following the letter of the law.
Moore introduces a couple resistant pedagogies:
– Critical pedagogy (see Freire!): actively encourages teachers to interrogate the taken-for-granteds of everyday life, including the nature of the school curriculum itself
– Multiple intelligences: abandonment of fixed ideas of ”ability” in favour of a more pluralistic view of intelligence and greated flexibility of teaching methods
– Accelerated learning: invokes recent understanding of the workings of the human brain to challenge dominant classroom practices and forms of assessment (importance of the physical and social learning environment!)
..An some alternative models of curriculum:
– the development of curricula that begin with students’ own experiences rather than with the imposition of an externally-fixed body of knowledge and skills
– curricula that emphasise creativity, communivation and appreciation rather than ”acquisition”
– curricula which begin with educational purposes (e.g. developing students and independent and effective learners, developing students as responsible, critical citizens and so on) rather than the acquisition of certain skills or bodies of knowledge will best support the achievement of those purposes.