June 13, 2024

Honesty and dialogue

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One of the most important lessons I learnt right at the start of my career in education was that teaching was not about ‘telling’ but about communication. I spent time like any teacher, struggling to share what I knew with students, almost like I was a jug, pouring my knowledge into their mugs. How arrogant that must have seemed.

I soon adopted a more participative approach where my students and I had more of a dialogue about what was being learnt. Content was still just as important, but the manner in which it was accessed became more student centred, and I acted as a facilitator rather than a narrator. From then onwards, we all began to enjoy the sessions more and of course, learning became a reciprocal event. There was a constant exchange of thoughts and ideas around the content, rather than a one way stream of information.

Reading an advance copy of Richard Gerver’s book Education: A Manifesto for Change this week confirms yet again that this approach is both effective and desirable, especially in the rapidly changing world of the 21st Century.

There is also a need for more honesty in teaching. Here’s a quote from the book: “As a teacher there is a perception that we must KNOW. This is not just dangerous but unhelpful, in that it creates a false aura that can make us appear inaccessible and daunting to our students. […] Nothing strengthens the bond between teacher and student more than honesty and the fact that they can relate to you as a person and as a learner, as fallible.” (pp 54-55).

Gerver, R. (2019) Education: A Manifesto for Change. London: Bloomsbury

NB: Education: A Manifesto for Change is published on April 4.

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Honesty and dialogue by Steve Wheeler was written in Plymouth, England and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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