Direct Instruction or Inquiry Learning?

The recent research conducted in China has reported that traditional ways of direct instruction, or a ‘chalk and talk’ approach in education produce better results, than collaborative ways of inquiry learning. This means that learning styles’ preferences also do not matter. Arguing the results Kevin Donnelly refers to different learning goals and learning content that demand more flexible and complex approaches, so the conclusion is drawn that there is ‘no only one correct way to teach’.

The danger of being too quick after the latest news is that the ‘eyes-opening results’ immediately become prescribed educational policies, with UK schools being urged to follow Chinese practices, more here.  The statistical results, like 72% of class interaction, when ‘facing the teacher’ makes the score, does not show how this kind of interaction works and why it works, as well as do not analyze the quality of this interaction.

Another thing is that when excellent performance results are cut out the context, the picture gets even more distorted and results more misunderstood. The Chinese methods should be analyzed taking into consideration the context – Chinese education tradition and reality with all the dark sides of it. 

Opposed to the research in China, the results of the research in Finland argue more for less state policies’ interference and control and suggest interactive, hands-on techniques as leading to the best results.

Comparing where the studies were conducted, it can be suggested that not only to the goals and content, but major factors like history, tradition, culture, politics and economy matter. Hofstede has shown that ‘software of the mind’ is connected to the educational tradition, this tradition the result of major factors.

The methods providing the best performance results of direct instruction in China would probably not work the same way in UK. They will not work in Denmark either; for example, comparing the ways of Russian and Danish education, only the deep understanding of the major context can suggest the most effective ways.

It does not mean though that education just drag behind the tradition. Any good teacher is a great innovator if listening to the breath of the class, to the heartbeat of the world around. The last century reflection and the ‘world village’ are working the same way as T.S.Eliot noticed – in close dialogue between the classics and the new.

What could be the conclusion? It is the context and the moment that is arguing for the way the things are done, the children and grown-ups taught. It is the local culture, history, content and purpose, the moment and gut feeling that suggest the best and appropriate – and thus effective- way.

The way we teach also influence how the knowledge and skills are implemented by the learners further on. If teachers are sensitive to the moment of truth, the implication do not abuse the knowledge and the skills acquired. Pointing to the ‘dark side’ is often about the ethics of contextual application, like with emotional intelligence working more like breaks rather than the engine.

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