the attack on direct instruction
December 14, 2013 | by oemb1905
In 1993, Alison King stated that the transmittal model assumed that a ‘students brain is like an empty container’ and that such a view is ‘outdated.’ Furthermore, she likewise argued that these same students, who ‘simply memorize’ the information committed an even more egregious error by not ‘even thinking about it.’ When instruction such as this takes place, it is an example of the teacher functioning as a ‘sage on the stage.’ In distinction to this, when the instructor facilitates learning in ‘less directive ways,’ he or she becomes more of a &’guide on the side.’ She makes no bones about which of these instructional models she favors, indeed, she even goes further and argues that this model, she dubs a ‘form of constructivist learning,’ is supported by Brown, Bransford, Ferrera, and Campione 1983 and Witrock 1993. She argues that because of the research in these papers that knowledge must be constructed ‘by each individual knower through the process of trying to make sense of new information in terms of what the individual already knows.’ Additionally, she mentions that the ideas she will elucidate in her piece are also ‘onsistent with information processing theories’ such as those of Mayer 1984. Lastly, she portrays direct instruction as a ‘lecture note-taking scenario’ and claims that conversely the ‘constructivist model places students at the center of the process.’ The paradigm, she concludes, must switch from ‘transmission of information to construction of meaning.’ The rest of the peace engages in a discussion as to how instructors shall best achieve these ends.
In order to be critical, one must also be fair. For that reason, it should be noted the present piece is not designed to favor one type of pedagogy over another, either due to quantitative research or due to qualitative research. Rather, the present thesis is a philosophical piece which argues from purely reasonable principles to purely reasonable outcomes, at least as much as such are practically attainable. And it is precisely in that regard, that Dr. King seemed to have missed the essential point that there is absolutely nothing wrong with being a sage on the stage. Oh yes, that’s quite right, and as a case in point, it should be noted that it is referred to as social learning theory whereby students learn from listening and watching experts. Furthermore, it is the model of presentation whereby instructors make that which the students watch enjoyable, entertaining, and inspiring. And lastly, it is through a measured instructional cycle whereby the efficacy of the process is guaranteed, and this measured process has been named direct instruction. Direct instruction is not some whimsical note-taking process where obedient students sit and receive knowledge! Now, certainly some phony educators have abused the model over the ages, but whether Socrates, Galileo, Copernicus, Spinoza, or Einstein, there has always been a challenger who rose from within this paradigm and challenged those impostors. Socrates received the death penalty, Galileo faced excommunication, Einstein had to wait fifteen years before his publication received the recognition it deserved. Nevertheless, despite the accomplishments of the Academy, there are those that choose to look at the last fifty years of educational theory alone and to draw all their conclusions from that limited frame.
Paolo Freire … a dynamo-mind, … legit sophist. But only a dilettante won’t concede Mozart over Beethoven at any occasion, and a mere toddler prefers the scotch of chamomile over the fine tannic darjeeling of Mortimer J. Adler. Freire was sincere and had passion unlike the cadre of modern educators, and for this reason, it seems most read his work as if it were holy scripture instead of philosophy. Oh yes, philosophy indeed. Furthermore, not just philosophy, but philosophy based on extensive personal anecdote; imagine the peer-reviewed eugenics descended progressive attempting to defend his findings! It is not possible. His educational theories are brilliant and a mind licks them from the page like a horse licks salt, but they are anecdotes and opinions. The Pedagogy of the Oppressed was a editorial from 1968. A massively ingenious editorial, but opinion and editorial nonetheless. Certainly he was poor. Certainly being poor means being hungry, and being hungry means it is difficult to learn. Wherefore the opinions on the Academy? And how come modern educators take his writing as gospel? Who says that transmittal model of education is inferior and why is that faulty syllogism still unquestioned? Here is the syllogism for the unread … Paolo was disrespected because he was poor and hungry … Paolo’s professors were Academy genre and abusers of direct instruction … therefore, all instructors are abusers of direct instruction. The sad fact is that despite being a book of articulate opinions, it is also a book that was programmed by experience. His vision was to overtake his oppressors. It was grandiose in its scope, but naively 60s in its wisdom. Its a benefit that he published it, to be sure, because as stated above, education needed its Galileo. Nevertheless, Galileo wasn’t right about everything and neither was Freire. Namely, just because lecture, presentation, and direct instruction failed him does not mean it will fail everyone! Such simple astonishing profundity! Yes, it was needed to push back against the oppressors. Yes, the conflation of the old conservative ideals with the Academy needed classically liberal disruptions whereby the poor, the minorities, and the oppressed could claim the titles of the oppressors! But that does not mean that the entire model should be scrapped just because a few instructors insulted this young Brazilian. Those instructors were certainly hacks, and if they had true humility of reason, they would have questioned Freire instead of censuring him. They would have asked if we really needed 50 books on critical pedagogy in the last fifty years, or if his ideas could have been better left to his seminal work alone? They would have asked does the abuser of the model make the model invalid? They would have asked by what evidence he and later thinkers could claim that rote memorization, written record keeping (or, pejoratively, note-taking), and learning socially from master mentors was invalid? Does not the master the field make? Can all knowledge be rediscovered through investigation and reconstruction? Is Dr. King realistic in thinking that high school students who enter 11th grade not knowing times tables will learn them by constructing them?
The real false binary. It is not power which makes the powerful unjust. Rather, it is acts of injustice. Paolo was so used to unjust rulers and virulent pedagogues, that he forgot that the Academy had a hallowed tradition of paideia. That the Sima Xian, Gilgamesh, and even the earliest passages of Genesis point to an ancient time of parable of sacrosanct wisdom. Paolo rejected classics! And Dr. King in her piece above, Duncan-Andrade, Morrel, and countless others of this sad epoch do the same. They posit that the binary is the choice between the making meaning and listening to the wise, or between living in the hood on its terms or leaving on the the white man’s terms, but they forget there is another binary. The binary of the Academy admits of all and forgives all just like the criminal Judaean may still pray on shabbos with the Cohen, so too the young brave must run for days before he is initiated. In short, the binary is that there is no binary. Everyone may escape by committing him or herself to the love of wisdom. Everyone is liberated when they choose to be. Whether the instructor uses direct instruction, constructivist learning, presentation, scientific-inquiry, investigation, seminar, dialogue, etc., all will learn when there is an inner allegiance to classically liberal thought, and classical ideas. The false binary is the preposterous and ludicrous idea that somehow middle class white educators will uplift the poor with constructivism alone! When in reality, the only uplifting is to be done by the individual, and the very meaning-making that this encampment declares for itself, is the very method by which those same oppressed peoples will be able to learn throughout any modality! Via any teacher and any style! Students learn from the cornucopia of personalities that institutions have, and while one guardian might be a lecturer, another might be a discusser. If the educational community insists upon using quantitative or qualitative research to support one type of model over another, they have lost the race before they left the gates. They have distorted Dewey’s false binary into one of their own fancy … they have made the disconnect between theory and reality a disconnect between method and learning, or the hood and the escape, instead of between knowledge and ignorance of knowledge.
No doubt it is difficult to accept … But the home community knows. The home community signs those very children up for private schools when affordable. The home community created school choice because it got sick of seeing the same kids go to the same schools due to “de facto” segregation. The home community knows if the man or woman from the community is to escape, it will not be by some card trick or hustling. When the home community man or woman escapes, it will be because they took exactly what the white man took for his power … fundamentals of instruction. Nuts and bolts learning. Direct instruction before investigation. Memorization and mastery before opinion. It is was precisely due to this dearth in the educational community that KIPP schools and other charters made a name for themselves! Whether wrong or right, one cannot complain about white hegemony and the need to usurp it on the one hand, and yet demand that they do it by different means on the other. If the country is to become diverse naturally, and by classically liberal principles whereby every man or woman works hard for theirs, then the only binary is that it will be by the same methods which gave the white man his power in the first place! It is only the middle class white conceit that deigns to design a separate ‘pedagogy’ for the oppressed! Sad reality. It is in fact only by mastering the essentials of numeracy and literacy as those great thinkers before did, that anyone will conquer the perceived oppressor. The only false binary is lying to the poor and minorities. The lie is that they need something different than the rulers before them needed. The idea that white hegemony will be overcome by an inherently racist and classist solution is the false binary.