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悖论:如何传授教学之道?

悖论:如何传授教学之道?

David A. Kaplan 2011年10月20日
如何向教师传授教学方法?大卫•K•科恩的著作——《教学及其困境》(对这一悖论进行了论述。

    如何向教师传授教学方法?大卫•K•科恩的著作——《教学及其困境》(Teaching and Its Predicaments)对这一悖论进行了论述。虽然该书开出的药方过于笼统——教师必须能够做到换位思考、意志坚决,同时社会必须提供支持,但是它对对教师面临的任务所作的描述却极为出色。现在77岁的科恩是密歇根大学(the University of Michigan)教育与公共政策学教授,他将教师与诸如心理治疗师和牧师等“人类灵魂的导师”进行对比。对这些专业人士而言,仅具备专业知识是不够的。同样,良好的意愿亦不足矣,否则更多的特许学校早就取得成功了。

    科恩称,教学面临的困境核心在于,教师(及其他“灵魂工程师”)的工作“离不开对象的配合”。与之相反的是,无论病人是否配合,外科医生都能完成手术。此外,外科医生并不指望把病人变成“实习外科医生”,而销售人员也没有期望提高顾客销售吸尘器的能力。然而,教师只有“把自己的某些专业技能传授给学生,帮助他们掌握这些技能”,才算取得了成功。因为学生是教室以外社会与经济因素的产物,所以,要求教学取得立竿见影的效果对教师而言显然是沉重的负担。这样看来,相对于医生来说,我们对教师的期望值显然更高。如果一个人因为体形肥胖、嗜睡慵懒去看心脏病专科医生,结果很有可能是医生也无法创造奇迹。

    长久以来,教学工作本身以及社会对教学工作的不满一直是人们热议的话题。但是,科恩表示,除非将教学的艺术从“墨守成规、缺乏想象力的机械实践变成一种在学术上有远大志向、有进取精神的事业”,否则教学改革就无法取得成功。他说,要做到这一点,普通的课程设置和测验远远不够。问题在于,除此之外,科恩与其他的改革家一样束手无策。因此,他呼吁培养更多兢兢业业的教师无异于寻求一张空头支票。

    或许,他本应该走出象牙塔,来解决更实际的问题。为美国而教(Teach for America)招聘天资聪慧的应届大学毕业生充实城市教师队伍,科恩对这一做法大加赞赏。但是,这些应届生通常很快就对这项工作失去了热情,如何留住他们,科恩并无良策;对于资格认证的结构性问题,科恩也没有找到解决方法。眼下经济形势黯淡,很多半路出家的专业人才意味着新鲜的师资人才库,但是大部分教育管理机构仍然要求教师拥有教育专业的硕士学位。纽约市教学研究员(NYC Teaching Fellows)等项目通过简化资格认证流程,降低了准入门槛,但是它们仅是为数不多的特例。

    最后,科恩指出,近期大部分改革制定的方案只能临时应急,但改良教育“更像是一次长征。”这无疑使教育改革的未来更加暗淡。无论如何,该书对教育面临的挑战进行了深入的思考和阐述。毕竟,如果不先搞清楚问题所在,就更谈不上解决问题了。

    译者:乔树静/汪皓

    How do you go about teaching teachers how to teach? David K. Cohen's Teaching and Its Predicaments takes on that paradox. While the book's prescriptions are often too general -- teachers must show empathy and resolve, and communities should provide backup -- its descriptions of the task facing teachers are superb. Cohen, 77, a professor of education and public policy at the University of Michigan, compares teachers to other "human improvers" like psychotherapists and pastors. For these professionals, Cohen says, expertise isn't enough. Nor are good intentions -- or else more charter schools would succeed.

    The core of the pedagogical predicament, according to Cohen, is that teachers (and other improvers) "depend on clients." By contrast, surgeons can do their job regardless of the patient's engagement. Moreover, surgeons aren't looking to turn patients into "apprentice surgeons," nor are salespersons trying to improve customers' ability to sell vacuum cleaners. Teachers, however, succeed only "if they help students acquire some elements of their own special expertise." Since students are a product of social and economic forces outside the classroom, it's a remarkable burden to demand quick results from teachers. Aren't we asking them to perform what we don't even expect from doctors? If you're fat and lethargic when you go see the cardiologist, chances are she can't work magic on you.

    Teaching and its discontents have long been hotly debated. Yet Cohen says reforms won't succeed until the art of teaching is transformed "from a largely routine and unimaginative practice into an intellectually ambitious and adventurous enterprise." He says it takes more than a common curriculum and tests. The problem is that, like other reformers, he doesn't much know what else to do. It's pie-in-the-sky for him to cry out for more dedicated teachers.

    Perhaps he should have stepped down from the ivory tower and addressed concrete issues. He praises the efforts of Teach for America to recruit smart recent college graduates into urban teaching ranks. But he suggests no ideas on how to retain more of those recruits, who too often burn out. Nor does Cohen really address the structural problem of certification. Most school districts still require the formal credential of a master's degree in education, even though there are many mid-career professionals in a poor economy who represent a fresh talent pool. Programs like NYC Teaching Fellows may reduce the barriers to entry by streamlining the certification process, but they're the exception.

    Cohen concludes that improved teaching "is more likely to be a long march than the quick fix that most recent reforms envision." That surely paints a bleak picture. Nonetheless, his book offers a thoughtful account of the challenge. You can't begin to fix what you don't understand.

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