Beyond Student Centeredness: Creating Spaces in an Idea-Centered Classroom
Simon Fraser University
Last modified: February 27, 2007
Presentation date: 07/20/2007 11:20 AM in Coast Hotel Comox Room
Russell Baker once wrote that inanimate objects are classified scientifically into three major categories – those that don’t work, those that break down and those that get lost. He might have added a fourth adjunct, the schools, which do a very good impression of all three simultaneously. The heuristic device laid out in Egan’s The Educated Mind (1998) establishes a lucid framework for discussing three conflicting aims for education; Plato’s epistemological mind, Rousseau’s natural development, and socialization. His work points to the idea that unless we are clear about our intentions regarding outcomes –what it specifically means to be an educated person – our means of organization, research and pedagogy will likely prove none more than so much trifling noise, much without discernable systemic benefits. This presentation will suggest that the common debate between advocates of subject-centeredness and student-centeredness is largely wrongheaded and unnecessary: We should not be seduced by any simplistic notion that a conceptually sound educative agenda will naturally emerge, either by cramming students’ heads with information or following student interests from the known and concrete to the unknown and complex. In an attempt to address what Egan (2002:180) sees as a ‘poverty of conceptions’, this presentation will revisit an expansive notion of skill development in the classroom and the creation of pedagogical spaces where central concepts and focussed skill application create a dynamic of ‘freedom-within-structure’. Practical applications of the model will be shared and commonalities relating to construction of meaning, differentiated instruction and imaginative education will be discussed.