This week’s readings center themselves around the role of the teacher in a constructivist classroom. Martinez and Stager (2019) call upon the teacher to “relinquish control and power to the students” in order to cultivate students’ sense of self-reliance and problem-solving abilities (p. 72). Brosbe (2016) recommends that teachers scrutinize the power imbalance in their classroom between themselves and their students; instead, he recommends a democratic approach wherein teachers maintain authority by creating an environment of mutual respect and democratize the classroom. Moser (2018) accomplishes this by turning students into experts who lead classroom activities on a rotating basis. This practice allows students to explore their personal strengths and hold power when in school, an environment from which the powerless often feel disenfranchised and disengaged.
As I consider these readings, I think about my own temperaments and practices as a teacher and my experiences as a student. Teacher-centered instruction never interested me in either role; as a student, I always devoured the few chances I had to make my voice heard. I think that’s why I gravitated towards English Language Arts, because I saw it as a class in which there were no right answers—only your arguments and how well you defended them—at least, when the right teacher offered me that opportunity. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen often, until I reached college. In one of my first education courses in undergrad, my professor remarked on my individual teaching style, which I had only just started to discover. She commented that one of my classmates was very focused in her pedagogy on what the text said and how we can make sense of it; I, on the other hand, leaned back and asked to start a conversation.
I think there’s room for (and value in) both approaches. But when I consider what’s true to myself and continue to explore my dispositions as a teacher, I think back often on that moment. My favorite moments in the classroom have always been when my students shared their ideas and interpretations or when they discovered something within a text that I had never thought about—when I took a step back from traditional teaching and let them bring learning into their own hands, hearts, and voices. I work to give students the opportunities to do so—opportunities that I was denied in my K-12 education.
Brosbe, R. (2016, May 26). Can teachers give up power and keep their authority? Retrieved from The Educator’s Room: https://theeducatorsroom.com/can-teachers-give-power-keep-authority/
Martinez, S. L., & Stager, G. (2019). Invent to learn: Making, tinkering, and engineering in the classroom (2nd ed.). Torrance, CA: Constructing Modern Knowledge Press.
Moser, M. (2018, June 11). Many experts in the classroom: Redirecting authority. Retrieved from Agency by Design Oakland: http://www.abdoakland.org/news/2018/6/5/many-experts-in-the-classroom-redirecting-authority
2 replies on “Week Four: Teaching and Learning in a Democratic Classroom”
Hi Cassie –
Awesome post! I really enjoyed reading about your experiences and why you decided to pursue teaching English Language Arts. I agree that our experiences are deeply shaped by the model and less-ideal teachers we have had. My best teachers were always ones who allowed me the opportunity to problem-solve, to personalize my projects and presentations (not just PowerPoint, but also skits and role-play). You raise a great point that my favorite “teacher moments” are when I learn from my students, when they share their thoughts/rationales.
You’re such a wonderful writer! I’m glad to see that your experiences as a student also play a role in your classroom teaching practices. My practices also are heavily influenced by what I desired growing up. I find it troubling that we both weren’t able to have a learning break through until college. I fear that this will be true for my students. So I find it incredibly important to stay on top of the research and believe in trying new things!
Keep on making a difference in the world.