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Friday, March 23, 2007

The one worst method

All right, we know that there isn’t any “one best method” of teaching. That’s one of the reasons why teachers need to be life-long learners: aside from being models for our students, aside from the continual need to learn new content, we can also always improve our teaching techniques. There’s no one best method, but maybe there’s a one worst method.

Yesterday and today Barbara had to attend an intermediate Excel course. The instructor decided not to “burden” the participants by giving them any hands-on experience, offering the lame excuse that doing so would slow them all down to the pace of the slowest learner. So he lectured... and handed out documentation. That’s it. Now I have nothing against doing some paper-and-pencil work when learning about computers — sometimes it’s exactly what an impulsive or confused student needs when trying to write a program or even when planning a spreadsheet — but it needs to be done by the student, not the instructor, and substituting lectures for hands-on work is just preposterous. I know that it’s a cliché to utter the purportedly Chinese proverb, “I hear I forget, I see I remember, I do I understand,” but like most clichés it contains more than just a grain of truth. I’m appalled that any organization that’s too cheap to rent computers would try to justify this decision by claiming that it produces better instruction.

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