This is Teaching?

I know I've been out of education-speak for a while, but what does this mean? "...a constructivist design process should be concerned with designing environments which support the construction of knowledge, which...provides an Intellectual Toolkit to Facilitate an Internal Negotiation Necessary for Building Mental Models"? I posted this lovely bit of edu-speak on Facebook a while back. I'm studying to take a Principles of Learning and Teaching (Praxis II) test to get re-certified to teach, and found this "explanation" on a university website.

Why do college professors and researchers, (and politicians, I might add), so often think that big words and complicated phrases are a sign of big intelligence? I know that special areas of knowledge need specialized vocabulary, but shouldn't that vocabulary help clarify, not obscure, meaning? To what degree does language like this serve as some sort of group marker -- "If you can talk like this you're one of us and if you can't you're obviously not, you inferior, teeny-brained life form."

What particularly kills me about this is that it's taken from a site designed to help explain these topics to education students. I got my degree 30 years ago, so I've been out of the "research talk" loop for a long time, and I'm not surprised at finding myself needing to make an effort to wrap my head around some of the vocabulary again. But if someone who claims to be a teacher can't explain their point more clearly than this, I think there's a problem. What is teaching but, on some level, the quest to make the currently unknown knowable to our students? If those who teach our teachers can't or won't do this, then why are we so surprised that people aren't learning?

Communication should be the foundation of teaching. If I have the background needed, and the desire to learn, and you can't explain it in a way that makes sense to me, then guess what? Maybe YOU'RE NOT A VERY GOOD TEACHER! That goes for my college Calculus teacher who thought writing the answers to the practice problems on the board and then walking out of the room was teaching. And to my Tae-Kwan-Do teacher who kept telling me I wasn't holding the baton-thingy wrong, but wouldn't tell me how to correct it. If you can't explain constructivism to me in a way I can grasp and apply, then there's a problem. Maybe you don't really understand it yourself. Maybe it's a very vague concept, and thus probably not all that useful to some fourth grade teacher in a real classroom anyway. Or perhaps you're not really trying, but using lazy thinking and regurgitated phrases. But it's also possible that you're not good at explaining things so others can understand them. In that case, perhaps you shouldn't be teaching, and certainly not teaching those who will be teaching our young. If you can't lead by example, then maybe it's time for you to get out of the classroom and let in people who can.

Back to the flash cards. "Constructivism is a theory of learning based on the idea that..."

Read Well, Friend


Sheila Deeth said...

I love that piece of edu-speak. Arghghg

Robyn Campbell said...

Teri, love the, "you inferior, teeny-brained life form."

This is edu-speak. YIKES!!!!!!