I recently examined the four most widely used texts sold to faculty in schools of education to teach “learning” to future teachers. The courses these texts are used in are well known to teacher educators. They carry titles such as “Principles of Learning for Teachers,” or “Introduction to Educational Psychology,” or “Learning in Classrooms.” There is no accredited teacher preparation program in the country that does not require at least one such course. There is no state department of education that does not require such courses before they will accredit a college or university as having an approved program of teacher education. No other academic discipline has any where near such total control and influence over the “knowledge” required of future teachers.
As I scanned these texts I asked myself a simple question. If I were a classroom teacher how would the learning theories being presented in these texts help me to deal with the following subgroups in a class of 25 to 35 students:
1.4-6 students feign helplessness regardless of how much the assignments are watered down and never complete assignments.
2.6-8 students need for attention prevents them from staying on task and interferes with the work of others.
3.1-2 students see themselves as having been hurt by teachers and seek revenge regardless of the task or assignment at hand.
4.3-4 students challenge the teacher for control of the classroom
5.6-8 students come to school everyday and function as observers rather than participants. They devote most of their time to observing the interactions ( i.e. the cold or hot war) between the teacher and each of the four student groups cited above.
Ultimately, this group comprises the majority of school dropouts; these are students with very low achievement who declare they quit school because it was”boring.”
6.4-6 officially labeled special needs students with IEP’s.
It is important to understand that the causes of feigned helplessness, the need for constant attention, assurance, control, revenge, or to observe rather than participate cannot be fully explained by psychological constructs.At least a dozen academic disciplines provide valid theoretic and research based constructs that explain these student behaviors. Thinking of classes in real schools comprised of these six subgroups I found little in the texts that explain either why students take on these roles or what a teacher could do to best teach students assuming these roles. But worst of all, I found no connection anywhere in the four texts between the endless lists of recommended behaviors given to prospective teachers and any theory of learning. In a desperate attempt to convince myself that surely these texts on “learning” would have some relevance to the real world I looked up the terms “classroom management” and “discipline” in their glossaries. Each of these volumes consisted of over 300 pages. In each case I found less that two pages of do’s and don’ts dealing with discipline and no connection of these recipes to any theory of learning.The volumes themselves are endless lists of things teachers should do without any connections whatever between their endless admonitions to any psychological theory. The reason for this is simple. The interminable advocacies are not based on or derived from any psychological theory… none.