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Methods of Education

There is a lot of continuity between ancient and modern practices. A Sumerian from 3500 years ago would have no difficulty recognizing today's primary school classroom.

Economic constraints are clearly important.

  • element of coercion
  • motivation by interest is preferred, but interesting all students in all topics won't happen
  • some stuff like arithmetic and hand-writing are boring for almost everyone.
  • reading may become rewarding, but is hard at first.
  • Teachers must teach to the average student, which harms both high and low performers.

Coercion is a big element, especially in primary education. For millennia, educational authorities have argued that the best way to motivate students is to arouse their interest, yet beating students has always been common. If we take curriculum and mass instruction as a given, then the need for coercion is pragmatic. A modern alternative view is to question the necessity of the fixed curriculum.

Progressive Education Reform

  • Educators have been saying for 2500 years that the best motivation comes from within the student, that simple memorization is not enough, and that you need to learn to think critically.

A major aspect of the educational reform movement beginning around 1850 was an attempt to eliminate coercion from school, which had to involve some transfer of control from the teacher to the students. Ideally education would start from real-world experiences such as going for a walk, rather than learning from books. This was justified in various ways:

  • A humanistic view growing out of the romantic movement was that the experience of childhood should be an end in itself; unpleasant educational practices could not be justified as a necessary means of preparing for life.
  • If school was more pleasant for children, it was expected that this would increase motivation, resulting in higher achievement.
  • Authoritarian teaching and rote learning was seen as inconsistent with the principles of democratic society and with needs of the modern world for flexible creative thinkers.

This can be seen as part of an overall gentling of western society. Reformers such as John Dewey had hoped to reform society by changing the schools. Though this grand goal was not achieved, disciplinary beatings of students are no longer considered acceptable, which is a major departure from the ancient tradition of western education.

The goals and methods of romantic educational reform have by no means disappeared, but the extremes of flexible student-centered curriculum never made it into general educational practice, and since 1950 the goal of student-centered reform has met increasing opposition. The “Back to the basics” movement argued that educators had lost sight of the actual educational goals of learning and skill mastery (see Educational Essentialism).

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analysis/social/education/methods.txt · Last modified: 2013/12/09 21:02 by ram