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Selected Works

Learning, Curriculum and Life Politics: the selected works of Ivor F. Goodson

Towards an Alternative Pedagogy

Even more disturbingly, the fatal flaws of transmission pedagogy mean that teachers' expectations inevitably come to fit the partial successes which are transmission's inevitable achievement:

The most wasteful and destructive aspect of our present educational system is the set of expectations about student learning each teacher brings to the beginning of a new course or term. The instructor expects a third of his pupils to learn what is taught, a third to learn less well, and a third to fail or just 'get by'. These expectations are transmitted to the pupils through school grading policies and practices and through the methods and materials of instruction. Students quickly learn to act in accordance with them, and the final sorting through the grading process approximates the teacher's original expectations. A pernicious self-fulfilling prophecy has been created (Bloom 1971, p. 47).

If the involvement of all students is to be our aim, and this article takes that view, then a pedagogy firmly situated in the interactive reality of the classroom is required: a pedagogy that accepts and works with the individual interests and processes which are at the centre of classroom learning.

Alternative Theories and Practice

In discussing an alternative pedagogy I am conscious that I am merely presenting a pedagogy in embryo, yet it is an embryo with a long history. Central to an alternative theory is the focus of investigation upon the individual process of learning. Each individual pupil exhibits the most positive response in the learning process when the information being dealt with somehow 'meshes' with what he is interested in. 'A child's education (as opposed to schooling) can only proceed through the pursuit of his interests since it is only these which are of intrinsic value', and further, 'whatever enables him to appreciate and understand his interest more fully and to pursue it more actively and effectively is education' (Wilson 1971, p. 67). Over half a century ago Dewey was similarly disposed to focus on the individual experiences of the pupil. He saw: the need of reinstating into experience the subject matter of the studies, or branches of learning. It must be restored to the experience from which it has been abstracted. It needs to be psychologized, turned over, translated into the immediate and individual experiencing within which it has its origin and significance... (Dewey 1971, p. 22). If the subject matter of the lessons be such as to have an appropriate place within the expanding consciousness of the child, if it grows out of his own past doing, thinking and suffering and grows into application in further achievements and receptivities, then no device or trick or method has to be restored to in order to enlist 'interest'. The psychologized is of interest - that is, it is placed in the whole of conscious life so that it shares the work of that life. But the externally presented material, conceived and generated in standpoints and attitudes remote from the child, and developed in motives alien to him, has no such place of its own. Hence the recourse to adventitious leverage to push it in, to factitious drill to drive it in, to artificial bribe to lure it in (Dewey 1971, p. 27).
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  • Date of publication: 15/09/2005
  • Number of pages (as Word doc): 272
  • Publisher: Routledge
  • Subject:
    Curriculum Studies, Narrative Theory
  • Available in:
  • Appears in:
    Learning, Curriculum and Life Politics: the selected works of Ivor F. Goodson
  • Number of editions: 1
  • Paperback
  • Price of book: £27.99
  • ISBN: 978-0-415-35220-8
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