I was reading about the Love and Logic program of parenting and classroom management. The program is based on a developmentally-appropriate perspective of providing children with reasonable, limited choices instead of trying to control their behavior with strict directives. As I was reflecting on the program, I realized that this is what our elementary education majors need--a clear plan that can be implemented in the classroom tomorrow. I am not writing this to talk about the merits of Love and Logic, though I do like their system. Rather, I am questioning our focus in education to start with theory first, in a very deductive manner. Heck, I like that approach--theory appeals to me. That's why I went and got my doctorate. My general thinking, shared by my colleagues, is that teachers must understand the theoretical frameworks that underlie teaching and learning situations so that they can make appropriate, reflective decisions in the classroom.
But what if we're wrong?
What if we should instead start with concrete suggestions for practice. For instance, we could teach them three different systems of classroom management, from three different epistemological perspectives, and then we could let them choose what works best for them. As long as all three are research-based, I don't see the harm in this, as long as they understand the tradeoffs inherent in each approach. The benefit is that they have something specific and concrete to use in their classroom. It's a very practical approach. We could do the same with math, reading, etc.
But what about the theories? Aren't they still important?
Yes, definitely. But I don't think they really matter to teachers until they have faced some complex, problematic situations that require more sophisticated thought. Truly, the first year of teaching is often about survival. What if we reserved our focused teaching of theories of learning, instruction, and child development for the internship year and graduate school years? I find my graduate level child development class to be much more fruitful than the one I teach for undergrads because most of my graduate students are practicing teachers. They really find the theories useful--they seem hungry for them, and they often engender heated debate as well as outright changes in teaching style.
My two cents for the day. What do you all think?