Every semester with the students in my social studies methods course, I draw a blank time line on the board of the last 10,000 years of human history and ask the students how well they could fill in the major events. A nervous silence immediately permeates the room.
My students readily admit that they know very little history, and most say they would get an “F” if they had to complete the time line.
But I then ask my students to write down memories of how they were taught social studies over the years. Overwhelmingly, they say they have experienced traditional teaching methods.
Many critics of progressive education say that our children are not learning because of progressive and child-centered philosophies. But this is just not the reality. My students’ memories are filled with the same list: teacher lecture and silent students, rote memorization, textbooks, worksheets, tests, and irrelevant content void of emotion and controversy.
If we really want meaningful learning in history, or any subject, then we had better start questioning how we’re teaching.
Steven Wolk, Assistant Professor of Teacher Education, Northeastern Illinois University
Wolk, Steven. “It Works for Me…Sharing Successful Techniques and Ideas.,” The Docent Educator 11.4 (Summer 2002): 9.