Unlearning How to Teach

Erica McWilliam, of Queensland University of Technology wrote a thought-provoking article on the importance of adapting to the times and changing with the students. Read more about it here.

Erica McWilliam, of Queensland University of Technology, wrote an interesting article about Unlearning How to Teach. Spigot.org, a news, research, and opinion site on digital learning, recently linked to the article, showing her work to many in the U.S. In this essay, Erica describes the importance of adjusting and adapting with the times and the learning ways of the students.

Our teaching and learning habits are useful but they can also be deadly. They are useful when the conditions in which they work are predictable and stable. They are deadly if and when the bottom falls out of the stable social world in and for which we learn. According to Zigmunt Bauman (2004), this is not merely a future possibility – it is the contemporary social reality.The paper takes up Bauman’s challenge to orthodox thinking about effective teaching in general, arguing the need for a more interventionist role for academic teachers and a greater emphasis on an experimental culture of learning, rather than a culture in which curriculum and pedagogy is fully ‘locked in’ in advance of engagement. The challenge for academic teachers is to promote and support a culture of teaching and learning that parallels a post-millennial social world in which supply and demand is neither linear nor stable, and in which labour is shaped by complex patterns of anticipations, opportunities, time and space.

She continues on to address the relationship between student and teacher.

The shift from ‘sage on the stage’ to ‘guide on the side’, while it has served an important function in shifting the focus from the teacher to the learner, does not capture the fullness of the implications of this shift. We have been hearing about the importance of ‘lifelong learning’ for some time now in formal education. If, as Bauman asserts, ‘unlearning’ will be as important to social success in the 21st millennium as learning has been in the 20th millennium, then the habit of ‘lifelong learning’ will need radical re-thinking in terms of the nature and purposes of pedagogical work. Put simply, we will need to see a further shift from sage-on-the-stage and guide-on-the-side to meddler-in-the-middle (McWilliam, 2005).

To learn more, you can read Erica’s full article here.

Published August 06, 2012