1st Edition

Maybe Teaching is a Bad Idea Why Faculty Should Focus on Learning

By Larry D. Spence Copyright 2022
    162 Pages
    by Routledge

    162 Pages
    by Routledge

    Deep and lasting learning results when we teach human brains in ways responsive to how they’re structured and how they function, which is not how we imagine they work or wish they would work. This book proposes a radical restructuring of teaching so that it conforms to how people learn. Spence maintains that teaching cannot and should not be aimed at transferring knowledge from teacher brains into student brains. In his words: “Decades of experience have made perfectly clear that this approach frustrates teachers, bores students, and results in minimal learning.”This is a book that challenges—it will poke and prod your thinking. The author writes near the end of Chapter 4, “I wanted to write a book that asked real questions and explored possible answers. I am not concerned that you agree with my answers or ideas, but I fervently hope the questions I’m raising will lead you to questions about habitual teaching practices and the resulting failure of students to learn.”

    Introduction—Maryellen Weimer 1. Early Learning Experiencing in School 2. Early Teaching Experiences in College 3. It's Time to Put Lectures on the Shelf 4. What is the Role of Questions in Learning? 5. Content. Does All That Information Lead to Knowledge? 6. Teaching Realities. Conflicts, Assumptions, and Approaches 7. What Is Learning? 8. Rethinking Failure and Ignorance 9. Criticism. The Key to Learning 10. Teaching That Promotes Learning from Mistakes and Failure 11. Practice Makes Perfect but Not Unless It's Deliberate Epilogue—Maryellen Weimer About the Author Index


    Larry D. Spence was an associate professor of political science at Penn State, where he was recognized for distinguished teaching with two University-wide teaching awards during his career. After 25 years teaching, he became the founding director of the University’s Schreyer Institute for Innovation in Learning. Upon his retirement, he directed a series of learning initiatives in Penn State’s School of Information Sciences and Technology and the Smeal College of Business.

    "If you were ready to unshackle yourself from content delivery to really help students learn, this is the book to support your endeavors. In a marked departure from ‘how to’ books on teaching, we are invited to unabashedly first recognize how the status quo of instruction is flawed and then provided with seeds for change. Small part memoir, a larger part intellectual examination of a teaching life leaving few practices unchallenged and big questions raised."

    Regan A. R. Gurung, Associate Vice Provost and Executive Director, Center for Teaching and Learning, Oregon State University

    "Our lives and experiences as students are the foundation of our practices as teachers. We imitate what helped us learn and strive to avoid doing the destructive things to our students that were done to us. Yet few books acknowledge this inseparable connection between our personal narratives and what counts as the practice of teaching. In this wonderful book full of emotion and resonance, Larry Spence and Maryellen Weimer redress that balance by exploring how our experiences of asking questions and receiving criticism inform how we support learning. Larry Spence’s prose sizzles with vivid energy as he provides heartfelt illustrations of how to rethink what counts as failure and how to conceptualize teaching as the promotion and support of learning.”

    Stephen Brookfield, Antioch University Distinguished Scholar

    "How do we become a great teacher who transforms the ways that our students understand the world? I’ve spent my career exploring the cognitive challenges that teachers must address to be effective teachers. But there is another way. We can study great teachers and try to determine how they think and what they do. Larry Spence was acknowledged to be a great teacher. In this deeply insightful book, he examines his own development from novice to skilled teacher, all for our benefit. It is an unflinching, unsentimental look at his misconceptions about teaching, his failures and what he learned from them, and his attempts to do better. We see him discover cognitive factors that play a huge role in effective teaching: using feedback to promote accurate metacognitive awareness, understanding the prior knowledge and beliefs that students hold, gaining their trust that you are committed to helping them learn, and supporting the development of connected understanding. Spence is blunt and forthright. Mediocre teaching, which he sees as systemic in academic structures, undermines student learning. But he remains humble. All teachers must address the issues he lays out in the book, but his approach to teaching may not be the best approach for you. He presents his views, but you get the sense that he could be persuaded to change his mind with a strong enough argument, and he would be happy about it. This book is a first-rate introduction to the cognitive challenges of effective teaching situated within the personal narrative of Spence’s own development as a teacher.”

    Stephen Chew, Chair, National Institute on the Teaching of Psychology

    "Spence organizes the book by pairing his experiences as a teacher and a learner in a series of anecdotes as a demonstration that these experiences are ultimately inseparable. The purpose of his efforts is to demonstrate an alternative to traditional lecture-based instruction to increase learning for both students and faculty."

    Dennis Matthew Stevenson, Journal of Faculty Development