'Teacher directed' or 'child guided'?

Ivan Godfrey's picture
Another letter to parents from the American head teacher of an international school in Germany - the sort of school that would, by results, find favour with Mr. Gove, I suspect. But would the message?

" An important part of what we need to ensure happens in our school centers around the either/or dilemma that many schools face. A question sometimes asked in early childhood education: “Is teacher-directed learning or child-guided learning better?” We prefer to think about teaching as not either/or but both/and. For example, some would suggest that a 20-minute lecture on structures in Grade 1 is preferable to 20 minutes of children exploring structures by using building materials entirely on their own. We understand that neither is likely most effective. Combining both approaches by involving children in hands-on experiences guided by teachers who can provide explanations of concepts and introduce the vocabulary specific to structures is more effective. We understand both/and are preferable to either/or.

This same both/and thinking has been written about in Developmentally Appropriate Practice in Early Childhood Programs (Copple, C. & S. Bredekamp, eds. 2009. 3d ed. Washington, DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children). Its authors describe what we value in the Primary and it includes ways of thinking about teaching and learning that we intend to keep in order to ensure a quality, world-class education for each child:

• Children both construct their own understanding and benefit from instruction by more competent peers and adults.
• Children benefit both from self-initiated, spontaneous play and from teacher planned and structured activities and experiences.
• Children benefit from both opportunities to see connections across disciplines through integration of curriculum and opportunities to engage in focused, in-depth study of subject areas.
• Children benefit both from opportunities to make meaningful choices and from having a clear understanding of the boundaries within which choices are allowed.
• Children benefit both from opportunities to collaborate with peers in developing a sense of community and from being treated as individuals with their own strengths, interests and needs.
• Children who are English language learners both need to acquire proficiency in English and to maintain and further develop their home language.

To maintain the quality of our program in the months and years ahead, we need to continue building our relationships with you, our parents. And we need to continue thinking both/and rather than either/or as we develop curriculum and make decisions about how best to teach. "
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