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3 Learner-centredness andTeacher-centredness: Pedagogical Paradigms? Introduction Instead of seeing teacher-centredness and learner-centredness as lying on a continuum, this chapter argues that the two pedagogies are diametrically opposed to each other. This is because the two are based on value systems that are so different from one another that it is difficult to see how they can possibly be viewed as compatible. In other words, learner-centredness and teachercentredness represent ‘pedagogical paradigms’. By employing Kuhn’s (1970) concept of ‘paradigm’, I demonstrate the fundamental differences between the two pedagogies. In more specific terms, the two pedagogies are founded on incongruent epistemological assumptions.These assumptions give a particular orientation to classroom architecture and internal organization, studentteacher and student-student interactional patterns. As research evidence has shown (see Chapter One), teacher-centredness is the paradigmatic location of teachers and students in sub-Saharan Africa. To demand that teachers shift from a teacher-centred paradigm to the learner-centred one is to demand that they make a ‘paradigm shift’. Given the fundamental differences between the two, this shift is never easy to accomplish, for basically the shift is a request for teachers to vacate their taken-for-granted world for a ‘world’ they know very little about. This chapter should be seen as a further repudiation of the view of teaching as a technical, rational activity as discussed in Chapters One and Two. Teaching and Learning in Context: Why Pedagogical Reforms Fail in Sub-Saharan Africa 46 Concept of Paradigm Kuhn (1970:viii) defines ‘paradigms’ as, universally recognized scientific achievements that for some time provide model problems and solutions to a community of practitioners. Scientific knowledge, Kuhn argues, is characterized by its dynamic nature since science’s conceptual structure and knowledge get transformed over time. Within a particular paradigm, practitioners set legitimate parameters within which their activities take place (Esland 1971). A paradigm has four basic properties: it contains (1) the prior knowledge of the discipline; (2) the projected legitimate problems to be addressed; (3) the methodological rules to be employed to find solutions to the problems; and (4) the criteria of truth and validity of the generated knowledge. In addition to defining what can be legitimately studied by its advocates, a paradigm also specifies what is necessarily excluded from the list of permissible topics (Shulman 1986). Practitioners operating within the same paradigm share an entire constellation of values, assumptions, goals, norms, language beliefs, techniques and ways of perceiving and understanding the world (Kuhn 1970). The shared values permit inter-subjectivity among the adherents of a paradigm. For as long as the paradigm continues to provide model solutions to the practitioners’ problems, it constitutes normal science, that is, it is the taken-for-granted world of the practitioner. However, because of the dynamic nature of knowledge, more problems may emerge that may no longer be solved within the framework of the dominant paradigm, thus necessarily putting the latter in a crisis. A new paradigm may emerge. Practitioners in the dominant paradigm may resist shifting to the emerging paradigm and thus continue working within the parameters of the old one. However, if the new paradigm proves more promising than their own, they may shift to it. The idea that a scientific community ‘adopts new values, norms, assumptions, language, and ways of perceiving and understanding its scientific world’ when it shifts to a new paradigm gives credence to the realists’ view that scientific knowledge does not ‘represent universal truth that is true in all contexts… but instead represents a socially agreed upon theoretical and contextual truth…’ (Tuthill and Ashton 1983:8). Thus, the paradigm concept negates any claim of science to valueneutrality . Because a new paradigm makes the old one with all its paraphernalia obsolete, the tendency is for adherents of the reigning paradigm to resist the ‘invading’one.Thismakesparadigmshiftsdifficulttoachieve(Chalmers1978; 47 Pogrow 1996). The disintegration of the dominant paradigm represents a disintegration of the practitioners’ taken-for-granted world and a concomitant loss of psychological support. For the practitioners, this experience may be anomic since it leads to a disruption of the existing cognitive order. Naturally, this has a deskilling effect on the advocates of the paradigm under threat, and they may, through philosophical and methodological debates, attempt to disprove the emerging paradigm. They may also resist the emerging paradigm for fear of loss of prestige which they may have earned as occupants of the paradigm under threat. The aim here is not to provide a critical appraisal of Kuhn’s...


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