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9 Conclusion Beyond Colonising Pedagogy It is now time to bring together the central arguments of the book and to comment on the implications for teaching and learning of the socio-cultural approach to pedagogy. In the preceding chapters I have explored the effects of the ideology of technical rationality on pedagogy and how this rationality partially explains the failure to institutionalize learner-centred pedagogy in sub-Sahara African contexts. I have observed that the origins of this ideology can be traced back to the application of the scientific method, particularly the Newtonian, mechanistic cause-and-effect paradigm, to the study of teaching. Science prides itself for its supposedly objective, value-neutral methods of studying objective reality. It is the aim of science to ‘discover’ the laws that govern the operations of the universe. Scientific methods were adopted in a number of human sciences in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. For example, cause and effect was used to discover the laws that governed the operation of human societies, leading to the emergence of the field of sociology. In the field of human thinking, cause and effect laid the foundations for the discipline of psychology and led to the most enduring version of psychology generally referred to as ‘behaviourism’. Teaching was not to be left behind in this stampede for scientific status. At the beginning of the second half of the twentieth century, efforts to establish the ‘scientific basis of the art of teaching’ began, the result of which was the processproduct paradigm of research on teaching. Teacher effectiveness research was born. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, we witnessed a resurgence of this form of research, but only after a short lull. The effects of positivistic approaches to teaching can be summarized as follows: Teaching and Learning in Context: Why Pedagogical Reforms Fail in Sub-Saharan Africa 156 • They have led to the neglect of pedagogy, that is, if pedagogy is taken to mean more than just the techniques of teaching (see Alexander 2008). The equation of pedagogy with the ‘observable acts of teaching’ reduces the former to a technical undertaking. Teaching in this sense becomes an act of establishing the ends of the activity and selecting the most effective means of realizing those ends. This reduces teaching to an exercise in instrumental problem solving. What is lost in this instrumentalisation is a sense of teaching as an ethical and moral activity, in that during teaching, teachers make decisions that are informed by their context (e.g. what they understand to be the nature of knowledge, their views on teaching and learning, etc.). • The neglect of context in teaching has led to the preponderance of standardized solutions to problems of teaching and learning. One such solution is the ubiquitous recommendation that learner-centred pedagogy can address problems of ‘quality’ in education anywhere, any time. It is supposedly a one-size-fits-all pedagogical style which works well irrespective of context. This view of pedagogy becomes problematic once we acknowledge pedagogy as shaped and informed by contexts, be they political, cultural or economic. • In teacher-education programmes, the influence of technical rationality manifests itself in terms of emphasis on students’ mastery of techniques of teaching. In other words, emphasis in these programmes is on the ‘how’, but rarely on the ‘why’ of teaching. Such an emphasis on technique tends to produce technicians, not professionals capable of reflecting on their teaching. Attention to the ‘why’ question can assist prospective teachers to appreciate better the complexity and problematic nature of teaching. • Where teaching is abstracted from its context, a simplistic view of the process of pedagogical reform reigns – reform failure is rationalized in terms of insufficient resources, high student-teacher ratios, and defective teacher-education programmes resulting in poorly trained teachers. The remedy is to pour more resources into the ‘deficient’ system with the hope that things will change. Yet, pedagogical change in the direction of learner-centredness is still as elusive as ever. What should be done then, in order to mitigate these deleterious effects of the technicist approach to pedagogical reform? This book’s general suggestion is that if a socio-cultural approach to pedagogy were adopted, the chances of successful pedagogical reform in sub-Sahara 157 Africa would be enhanced. This should not be read as an endorsement of learner-centred pedagogy. In fact, a socio-cultural approach to pedagogy invariably questions the desirability of a universal ‘one-true’, ‘one-sizefits -all’ approach to teaching, which is exactly...


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