Monday, June 9, 2008

Disparity

For most of this year, I've been complaining about my course, which a course that teaches you how to teach. There are 32 weeks in a given academic year, and in my course, exactly 11 of them are devoted to prac work. About 4-5 are devoted to end of semester assignments, which leaves 16 for actual teaching - which really doesn't leave much time for teaching how to teach.

Now, my chief complaint with the course is that it gave such a small time period for prac - other universities give as much as 16 weeks of pracwork. My solution was to change the qualification for teaching from a graduate diploma to a post-graduate apprenticeship - stick around a teacher you feel is particularly good for a year and you'll figure out how to teach. Hey, it works for other professions.

In the course of doing a research assignment for my graduate diploma (the irony not lost), I've completely done an about face. See, my assignment is on religious education in state schools - basically the only place where a person can teach unsupervised without having a teaching qualification (you need approval from the religious body and a working-with-children card, but that's about it). I've found a great disparity between those who have just taught from their knowledge and those who are trained teachers in one area particularly - methodology of teaching.

See, when you have a small length of time to teach, you can get by on the ol' chalk-n-talk - where the teacher will talk, the students will listen and regurgitate on the test (hopefully metaphorically). That's something you can do when the lesson is 40min or less, and it works well enough, and people wonder why you need to teach teachers how to teach. But, when the lesson is longer than that, you just can't do that - you need to do something to vary the class, some groupwork, some audiovisual, whatever, it needs to be done. The trained teachers understand that. The untrained teachers, well, don't. They remember their old lessons, where the teacher - who knew pretty much everything - would walk into a classroom, talk for 40 minutes, and walk to their next class - pure chalk-n-talk. Teacher training lets you teach differently and in different ways, it lets you plan lessons and know what you want to get out of them.

Maybe you'd be able to get that out of an apprenticeship - probably not, and it would depend on the teacher and there's a really high chance that the knowledge would just get lost. Maybe an 18 month course would be better - six months theory, six months theory-prac, six months apprenticeship (paid at apprentice rates). Maybe that'd work, I dunno. But, you definitely need to teach people how to teach, because you cannot just talk to students for that long a time without boredom setting in.

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