Friday 4ALL: 19th Century Methods, 21st Century Learners

It seems education and schooling are at a crossroads. There is still a prevalence of 19th century teaching methods used in a vain attempt to reach children of the 21st century. Videos like the one below demonstrate this point well. (There are many more just like it all over YouTube.) Why do we insist on maintaining the status quo with outdated methodology?

Well, there are some reasons for our hesitancy to adopt new strategies and technologies. For one, this is how we learned and it worked fine for us as well as previous generations. However, we lived in a time that while incredibly different from our parents’ and grandparents’ generations, was probably more like theirs than the world today’s students occupy. The advancement in technologies over the last two decades alone necessitates a new approach to schooling, not to mention the global society in which those technologies have made possible.

Traditional forms of instruction also provide a sense of control that more progressive methods don’t always offer. This is true in a lot of ways, but we have to ask ourselves what our purpose as educators actually is. Our purpose is to insure that our students are learning and not simply to control their behavior for six hours a day.┬áBesides, that sense of control is not limited to traditional classrooms. Classrooms using cooperative learning and project-based lessons can offer as much if not more structure as the traditional classroom. Still, a certain amount of control needs to be given up by the teacher so that students are free to explore, be actively engaged, and not simply taught.

It’s easy to see how different the world is in which our students exist compared to the world in which teacher-directed, content-centered methods were developed. So, why do we so often defer to those methods?

I’m not saying there isn’t a place for direct-instruction or other traditional approaches. We just have to recognize that the students we teach today are not from the same time period as the traditional methods by which they are being taught. It’s time to make that shift to new pedagogy and methodology (if you haven’t done so already).

How are you addressing the needs of a 21st century learner? What 19th century methods could you alter to make more effective with today’s students?

Zac Early is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center.