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4 Teacher-centred Pedagogy as Co-construction Introduction In Chapter One, I observed that one of the effects of technical rationality on research on teaching has been the tendency to focus almost exclusively on what the teacher does in class, rather than on what students also do to influence classroom practices. Students, it appears, do not matter really in classroom processes and curriculum implementation. This thinking suggests that their behaviour will change as and when that of the teacher changes. The thinking is perfectly in line with the logic of both process-product research and behaviourism – typically, students are portrayed as ‘passive recipients of academic verbal information’ (Prophet and Rowell 1993:205), which implies that they do not make any worthwhile contribution towards the shaping of the observed classroom practices. Where students’ contributions are accepted, they are described as ‘fairly artificial [comprising] short responses to closedended teacher-initiated questions’ (Marope 1995:12). To use a popular metaphor, students are ‘pawns’ that merely respond, in a rather mechanical manner, to the teacher’s actions. This chapter makes a critique of this position through the presentation of findings from a study in which students were observed employing both subtle and overt strategies to keep their teachers in an information-giving position. The findings challenge the pervasive view that ‘teacher dominance’ of classroom activities is a product of the teacher acting on the students. Rather, teacher dominance results from teachers and students exercising power on one another. To this end, I argue that students make great input in classroom processes to the extent that they significantly influence the way a teacher carries out his or her teaching tasks. At the centre of this argument Teaching and Learning in Context: Why Pedagogical Reforms Fail in Sub-Saharan Africa 72 is the notion of classroom reality as a social construction jointly constructed by both the teacher and students. Doyle’s (1992:509) suggestion that ‘the study of teaching and curriculum must be grounded much more deeply than it has been in the events that students and teachers jointly construct in the classroom settings’ is undoubtedly apt. Thus, the classroom reality dubbed ‘teacher-centredness’ is a co-construction involving both students and the teacher. In Chapter Three, I discussed some of the strategies teachers used to keep themselves in an information-giving position. In the present chapter, I demonstrate how students kept themselves in an information-receiving position. The result of these actions was a teacher-centred ambiance. The concept of ‘co-construction’ is potent in three main ways. First, it validates the view that as an immunological condition, teacher-centredness is antithetical to learner-centredness, a condition that increases the possibility of tissue rejection of learner-centredness where attempts to introduce it in a predominantly teacher-centred environment are made. Secondly, the coconstruction concept rhymes with the concept of pedagogical paradigm as presented in Chapter Three in that adherents (teachers and students) of a paradigmtendtobehaveinwaysthatreproducetheparadigm.Theyareunlikely to behave in ways that challenge the fundamental bases of the paradigm. Thirdly, the concept portrays the classroom as a living social system, and like all social systems it is a creation of human beings acting on one another. The meanings this social system imbues in both teachers and students make them purposeful sense-makers who constantly construct ideas in order to understand situations and events. This teacher and student-empowering position has spurred interest in research on teacher thinking, and this research has flourished since the 1980s. The research is premised on the assumption that teachers’ thoughts, beliefs, judgments, and decisions guide their classroom behaviour (Stern and Shavelson 1983; Richardson, Tidwell and Lloyd 1991). The assumption implies a view of teachers as active and autonomous agents whose role is shaped by their classroom experience (Elbaz 1983). Thus, in opposition to the sterile and dependent view of the teacher promoted by the technicist approach, research on teacher thinking views the teacher as capable of mediating ideas and constructing meaning and knowledge. Unfortunately, not as much attention has been paid to research on student thinking, yet, as this chapter seeks to demonstrate, attempts to radically reform teaching and learning practices (e.g. by introducing a ‘radically’ different innovation such as learner-centred pedagogy) are surely likely to be resisted, not only by the teachers but also by the students. 73 This raises an interesting definitional problem – that of how we define teacher-centredness. Because in the technical rational model, the studentteacher relationship is hierarchised, invariably, teacher-centredness as a classroom...


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