Traditional vs Transformative Teaching, Part 2

Traditional Teaching/Learning
– time is constant; performance is the variable
– expectation of bell-curve when regards to grades
– based on linear learning
– lecture, teacher disseminates info
– breadth, not depth
– lower order thinking skills
– abstract
– text-book driven
– short-term memorization

Transformative Teaching/Learning
– Time is the variable performance is constant
– Expectation of performance standards to be obtained by ALL students
– based on spiral learning
– Inquiry-based and discovery teaching methods
– depth, not breadth
– higher order thinking skills
– concrete-to-abstract
– domains-driven, integrated curriculum
– long-term retention

Okay, so again, here are some differences between traditional and transformative teaching/learning. Here are more of my thoughts:

*In my last post on this topic, I mentioned that sometimes teachers have to disseminate information to their students. However, once students have that knowledge, they do need to be challenged to use it, analyze it, evaluate it, and find connections between the new information and themselves, the world, and other texts. This is where some of the higher-order thinking skills come in. Teaching students about different types of governments is one thing. Asking them to to engage in a debate in which they pick one type of government and defend why it is the best makes them take facts and use them in creative, challenging ways and to think critically about what they are learning. It will also help them remember what they have learned

* I wholly support the concrete to abstract idea, particularly in math. Students need to be taught the concept before the procedure. Before I took Math Methods (i.e., strategies to teach math to elementary students) in college, I did not understand conceptually what “borrowing” meant. I knew the process of how to cross one number out, make it one less, and add a 1 beside the other number to subtract. However, it was only when I used place value blocks and mats that I understood I was trading in 1 “ten” for 10 “ones.” Students will need to learn procedures, but they also need to know conceptually what the procedures mean.

* Integrated curriculum is becoming more and more popular in education. I even had a principal that had the teachers pair up with a teacher that taught a different discipline and together the pairs had to come up with one or two cross-curriculum lessons. Many high schools offer classes like World Studies, which is a combination of World History and World Literature. Likewise, it is easy to see how math and science would fit hand in hand. However, it’s hard for teachers – particularly elementary teachers – to work that out logistically. They (We) are so used to a schedule: Math from 8-9, Reading from 9-10, Social studies from 10-11, etc. In addition, many elementary school teachers specialize, so in a school with four fourth grade teachers, the students may swap teachers all day long with one teaching math, one teaching science, one teaching social studies, etc. One thing that elementary teachers ARE good at is connecting literature to all subjects. They are great at finding books that go along with the curriculum they are teaching. I think that trying to do cross-curriculum lessons is a good thing and hope to see education moving more in that direction.

* Most of this transformative teaching stuff comes from a constructivist view of learning, which goes back to Piaget’s ideas that a person builds his/her own knowledge by assimilating or accommodating new ideas into their schema, or ways of organizing knowledge in the brain. Schema theory and current brain research show that making use of all senses and pushing kids to use skills such as problem-solving, analysis, synthesis, and inquiry will help develop long-term retention.

Okay, I’ve been long-winded again. In short, I agree that most of the stuff on the second list is the way to go, but unfortunately some of the things on the first list still affect teaching and learning for reasons that teachers cannot control.

One comment

  1. Greg says:

    Great post, Karissa! I’m glad that you included constructivism. It’s an absolutely critical (but poorly understood) theory in education.

    It’s a crucial idea: We Build Knowledge. But the follow-up question is this: How are we building it? What’s the process for building?

    Since leaving the classroom, I’ve worked with a researcher who developed a model to answer these questions. It’s called the DSRP Method, and it gives teachers (and students) a practical tool to “do” constructivism.

    I would encourage you to check out these free materials:

    And watch teachers using DSRP in the classroom:

    Keep up the great work!

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