Sunday, October 08, 2006

Creative versus scripted teaching

I was inspired today during Global Learn Day by the presentation of Stephen Downes, who observed that our current elearning environment is more a place where where we come together to collaboratively create and share content, rather than a place where people merely consume content in a traditional, passive way. I certainly think of the ITM blog in this way, and hope you will too! Your participation in this dialog is both invited and essential!

One of the most challenging characteristics of our current K-12 educational environment is the emphasis on scripted teaching from many quarters. For a variety of reasons, many people seem to be advancing a vision of teaching and learning where the teacher is provided with a "script" of things to say and do in the classroom, and s/he is expected to essentially "perform on cue." I know Phil Schlechty has written about the importance of teachers viewing themselves as designers of engaging learning environments, rather than mere PERFORMERS and DELIVERERS of the curriculum.

I definitely understand the need and vital importance of a robust curriculum, and I also understand (and appreciate from my own experiences when I was just starting out in the classroom) the importance of more scripted lesson plan ideas for novice teachers. I take issue with a vision of teaching and learning, however, that assumes the best teaching and learning environments will be the planned and scripted ones. I have found in my own teaching and learning experiences that often the most significant, valuable, and memorable learning moments were not planned. As teachers grow in their experiences and skill sets as instructional leaders, I think we both need and deserve more instructional autonomy.

Only by providing teachers with more autonomy, and fewer mandates, can we hope that teachers will broadly be empowered to truly differentiate learning for students. Whatever the politicians decide, the good news is that teachers still make important choices each day about how they invite students to join them in the learning process. It's my hope ITM will help you find new ideas to create for, engage with, and motivate your students to new heights of learning!