In the next four to eight years, education will face issues that will provide opportunities for really changing the way we think about teaching and learning. It will require, however, that educators and the public use research for decision-making, and develop programs that promote learning for the diversity of students that attend our schools. We need leaders who are steeped in educational research, and realize that our schools need reform more than ever.
In my own view, we need to recognize that the traditional paradigm (Paradigm A in the chart) has not worked for most of the students who attend schools, not only in the USA, but in most countries around the world. Unfortunately, when educational leaders talk about reform in schooling, they restrain themselves by basing their thinking on this old paradigm, one that is based on a corporate model, and uses test scores as the measure of student learning. The tests that are used reduce learning to rote, and evaluate not only a student’s progress in a period of a few hours, but also use these results as a way to assess teachers’ performance. In neither case should we be satisfied. There are much better ways to find out how students are doing, and far more valid ways to assess teachers’ performance other than basing it on student achievement.
We need leaders at the national, state and local levels (in each country) who embrace a humanistic approach to teaching and learning, and an educational system that is based on research. For example, in the chart below, the humanistic paradigm is by its nature innovative and flexible. It does not believe in a one-size-fits-all approach to teaching. Instead, learning is constructivist in nature, and students need to be helped to develop their ideas in environments that foster a social constructivist approach. In this approach learning is seen as a social process, and much of the work of students should be done in the context of groups—especially problem solving groups, and the problems should be based on lived experiences of students, and be as authentic as possible. A humanistic paradigm values interdependence, and creates environments in which student have a right-to-choose not only some aspects of content, but the design of methodologies for learning.
Science Teaching Paradigm A—Traditional Approach
Science Teaching Paradigm B—Humanistic Approach
• Traditional, mechanized thinking
• Individualistic–although students may at times work together in groups, interdependence typically is not a goal.
• Dependence–teacher-directed instructional model establishes a dependent social system.
• Hierarchical—choice-made-for-you. Rarely do students choose content or methodology for their investigations
• Emphasis on literacy: knowing facts, skills, concepts
• Emphasis on content; acquiring the right body of knowledge
• Learning encourages recall, and is analytical and linear
• Innovative, flexible thinking
• Cooperative–students work collaboratively in small teams to think and take action together
• Interdependence–a synergic system is established in groups within a classroom, and within global communities of practice.
• Right-to-choose—students are involved in choice-making including problem and topic selection, as well as solutions; reflects the action processes of grassroots organizations
• A new literacy insofar as “knowledge” relates to human needs, the needs of the environment and the social needs of the earth’s population and other living species
• Emphasis on anticipation and participation; on inquiry, learning how to learn, and how to ask questions
• Learning encourages creative thinking, and is holistic and intuitive
The humanistic paradigm would view standards in a different way. Instead of simply being an outline of the content of the science discipline, content would be seen as knowledge as it relates to human needs, the needs of environment, and the social needs of the earth’s population and living species.
Embracing this paradigm, which is also as old as the traditional paradigm, would require courage on the part of educational leaders. Yet, there is evidence to support a movement toward the humanistic model, and I’ll explore some of this evidence in future posts.
In the meantime you might check out:humanistic science teaching, traditional paradigm