“Good” and “Successful” Teaching: Where Does the Student Enter the Picture?

The essence of my teaching methods depends upon me successfully cultivating student attitudes and habits that help them take responsibility for their learning…just as Dr. Cuban states in the last sentence of his post.

The challenge is being successful at said cultivation as most of the students I have encountered in my six years of teaching secondary mathematics have mostly been acculturated to being passive recipients of knowledge rather than active seekers of knowledge…This is the crux of the dilemma facing our nation’s secondary schools in preparing students for post-secondary success…the world is not fill in the blank or a series of highly scaffolded worksheets…

Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice

The singular and important role of the classroom teacher in getting students to learn is well established in the research literature (see here and here). I have no quarrel with that frequent finding (whatever the metrics) to confirm that teachers are instrumental to student learning.  What is far less clear is what part do five to 18 year-old students play in the chemistry of learning.

It is a question that I have puzzled over in my many years teaching high school and graduate courses. And I have no certainty in answering it.

For some teachers, as one told me after I observed his mediocre lesson, “I was selling but the students weren’t buying,” students bear the lion’s share of the responsibility. They are expected to come to class, obey the rules, do the homework, participate in discussions, and do well on tests. Those are students’ responsibilities. Other teachers (and…

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About Dave aka Mr. Math Teacher

Independent consultant and junior college adjunct instructor. Former secondary math teacher who taught math intervention, algebra 1, geometry, accelerated algebra 2, precalculus, honors precalculus, AP Calculus AB, and AP Statistics. Prior to teaching, I spent 25 years in high tech in engineering, marketing, sales and business development roles in the satellite communications, GPS, semiconductor, and wireless industries. I am awed by the potential in our nation's youth and I hope to instill in them the passion to improve our world at local, state, national, and global levels.
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1 Response to “Good” and “Successful” Teaching: Where Does the Student Enter the Picture?

  1. Chester Draws says:

    the world is not fill in the blank or a series of highly scaffolded worksheets

    You know what, it largely is for most people most of the time. They have to complete a series of tasks inside a fairly limited range, with little scope for alternative methods. The vast bulk workers are driving trucks, operating machinery, hanging doors etc.

    But those in the “knowledge economy” fare little better. I want my doctor to use the latest proven methods. I don’t want him to start trying different things out on my to see if they work. Nor do I want my dentist, lawyer or accountant to start getting inventive on me. Sure they can try things out, but not just making stuff up off their own bat, but using techniques known in the community. Airline pilots better not even try anything out that isn’t in the manual! My hairdresser better not just make up an inventive style for me — she has scope for individuality, but it is very severely restricted.

    There are very few non-artistic jobs where inventiveness and originality are the keys to success. Generally really good subject knowledge is much more important. Even scientists only spend a tiny part of their time doing any new stuff — the vast bulk is routine work.

    In fact the only non-artist job I can think of where people really invent new things and try them out on a regular basis is teachers!

    We risk setting kids up to expect their individuality will be valued in the workplace, when mostly it won’t. Fortunately, while most kids are naturally curious, few kids actually enjoy being inventive.


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