More questions than answers;Update

22nd October 1999 at 01:00
Research findings by Reva Klein

Today's teachers spend more time talking at pupils, telling them facts and giving them directions than their predecessors did 20 years ago, a small-scale study suggests. The researchers say the move to more passive learning, first noted with the introduction of the national curriculum and reinforced by the literacy hour, could be having negative effects on children's learning.

Research into how children learn shows classroom teaching isn't effective unless pupils play an active part in their learning. Initiating ideas and verbally responding to teaching helps promote understanding. An investigation of the teaching styles of 10 teachers during literacy hour shows little evidence of the interactive teaching that National Literacy Strategy guidelines promote. Teachers' presentations and question-and-answer dominate most lessons, where children display knowledge only when directly asked by the teacher. Few children ask questions or make statements outside this tightly teacher-controlled framework.

The authors believe that teachers should look for alternatives to direct questions, such as suggestions or negotiations, which give pupils freedom to voice their views, reveal their knowledge and uncertainties and ask for explanations.

They also suppport the idea of monitoring and self-evaluation becoming an important part of in-service training to help them adapt to the new ways of teaching that the National Literacy Strategy demands.

The Discourse of the Literacy Hour by Maria Mroz, Frank Hardman and Fay Smith, University of Newcastle upon Tyne. Tel: 0191 222 6000.

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