Saturday, August 4, 2012

Can Teacher and Student Both Win?

I was inspired by a recent comment made by Stephen Downes:

a course is either teacher-directed or student-directed.  It can't be both, because in case of conflict, only one wins (and guess which one?).
So can a class be both teacher-directed and student-directed?

In formal learning circles, a teacher and respective learners who share a classroom typically follow a curriculum and work towards some desired results that must be reached within a given time frame (i.e., a semester).  Oftentimes, this experience is viewed as teachers ultimately possessing most of the power.  Whatever the teacher says, goes.  If there is a conflict between student and teacher such as what students are to do in class, how they are to do it, and how they will be evaluated on their efforts, the teacher dictates what is to happen.

Or a class can go to the other extreme.  A teacher can give students many different choices as to what they are to do in class, how they may do it, and how they are to be evaluated for their efforts.  Students choose what they want to learn; if they want to work individually, in pairs, or in groups; when assignments are to be completed; and whether they want to self-assess their own work or have their work assessed by someone else (e.g., peer-assessment or assessment from some other expert).  So classes (i.e., formal education where learning takes place within a school) are either teacher-directed or student-directed and can't be both?

Consider the following questions:

  • Is it possible for teachers to take on different roles or activities that at times are didactic, controlling, and directive and at other times more facilitative, guiding, and flexible depending on the educational circumstances?
  • Is it possible for teachers to take on different roles or activities depending on the individual learner?  Can a teacher be more didactic towards one learner and more facilitative towards another?  Can this occur even within the same class, lesson, etc.?
  • In the case of teacher-student conflict, is it possible for a teacher and student to negotiate and resolve conflict in a way that both "win"?
  • Does a teacher ever "win" when a student "loses"?
  • Is a complete course ever either teacher or student-directed?  Or are there moments within a course when actions are directed by the teacher and other moments when students drive the learning process in such a way that both teacher and student "win"?
  • Is the dynamic and emergent nature of a teacher and student-directed course too complex to even represent as falling along a continuum or as being a dichotomy?
What do you think?