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What’s Your Perspective?

“Every reform was once a private opinion, and when it shall be a private opinion again, it will solve the problem of the age.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Recently I took the Teaching Perspectives Inventory (Pratt and Collins).  Pratt identifies a perspective on teaching as an ‘inter-related set of beliefs and intentions that gives direction and justification to our actions.”  I was not surprised to discover that my primary perspectives are apprenticeship (engage learners within their zone of development) and developmental (helping learners develop increasingly complex and sophisticated cognitive structures).  Closely following these in my score was nurturance.  These are the hallmarks of K-12 teachers.  I view the transmission perspective (high content) as more prevalent in secondary school and college.

And then there is the social reform perspective.  Pratt’s studies found that teachers who embody the social reform perspective are few and far between, but those that have this perspective are very likely to have a lasting impression on us.  Spending my formative school years during the 1970’s, I remember a few of these.

Pratt says social reform teachers make 3 assumptions:

  1. that their ideals are necessary for a better society
  2. that their ideals are appropriate for all
  3. that the ultimate goal of teaching is to bring about social change, not simply individual learning.

The questions on the inventory relating to social reform drew an instant reaction from me – no way, I couldn’t do that!  Push my ideals?  We are in the new millennium, to push our ideals on those we teach would not be politically correct, would it?  We are told not to share our views on specific candidates during an election.  We are told to not share our discontent with funding bodies as they cut our jobs and programs that are helping our students to learn better.

What about the ‘green’ agenda, though?  We CAN teach our students about recycling and how important it is for the environment.  We can teach them about the depletion of our natural resources.  What about Greg Mortensen’s ideals about education in Pakistan and Afghanistan?  The student’s version of ‘Three Cups of Tea’ is being read and discussed in classrooms across the country and school children are actively raising money for his cause.

The bigger questions to consider may be these:  Have we not taught our students critical thinking and decision making skills of their own?  Are they incapable of looking at the facts on both sides of an issue and coming to their own conclusion?  Shouldn’t they be developing their own ideals?

“When it is private opinion again, it will solve the problem of the age.”

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One Response to “What’s Your Perspective?”

  1. 🙂 Hope you don’t mind the comment, but I love this! I feel like I “push” the agenda of “research your own practice” until my students run away screaming!
    I agree that the transmission perspective is more prevalent in secondary school and college, but harken back to the days when institutes of higher learning were less diploma mills and more apprenticeship/developmental learning places. Of course, they were also insiders’ clubs of privileged men, so I guess we have to “give to get”…


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