It’s not about the teachers, it’s about the students: In MOOCs or Classroom

January 7, 2013 at 8:23 am 2 comments

I agree with the post below which suggests that MOOCs misunderstand what a good teacher does–that’s what my post earlier was about.  I’m not convinced that I agree with the author’s definition of what a teacher does.  Yes, a good teacher does all those things described in the second paragraph below, but a key part of what a teacher does is to motivate the student to learn.  Learning results from what the student does and thinks.  It’s the teacher’s job to cajole, motivate, engage, and even infuriate the student so that he or she thinks about things in a new way and learns.  In the end, it’s always about the student, and the most important thing a teacher does is to get the student to do something.

But even if Tabarrok’s model makes good economic sense, it makes bad education sense and misrepresents what genuine teaching is and what the “best” teachers actually do. For starters, unlike TED speakers, they don’t simply deliver lectures and profess. They also work with students to help them become better thinkers, readers, and writers. How?

Through personal attention (such as tutorials) and classroom interaction (such as discussions and the guided close reading of texts). By constantly testing their students’ minds against theirs, forcing them to ask the hard questions and to explain them with significant answers. And by giving them appropriate personalized feedback.

via A Cautious Word about MOOCs.

Seb Schmoller had a nice response to my Friday post, where he asked what it will take for MOOCs to engage the student and lead to the learning that a good teacher can achieve.  He included a wonderful quote from Herb Simon which really captures the key idea:

“Learning results from what the student does and thinks, and only from what the student does and thinks. The teacher can advance learning only by influencing what the student does to learn.” – Herb Simon.

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Don Davis (@gnu_don)  |  January 7, 2013 at 9:28 am

    I am a little unsure about what the specific disagreement with “A Cautious Word about MOOCs” was, though there certainly are problematic elements.

    From a Cautious Word about MOOCs – “For too long professors have cared more about research than they have teaching.”

    By which standards? How is this measured and whom does it impact? Certainly, many professors are under compulsion to focus more on revenue bringing research than course quality – but where?

    Such compulsion is in direct relation (by and large) to the prestige of the university – which is (almost exclusively) in indirect relation to the numbers of underserved students it supports.

    It seems that this may prove a contrary trend to MOOCs – i.e. whereas students immatriculated to top tier schools need less support (and frequently don’t receive such) those facing enrollment in the MOOCalypse might need the most support.

  • […] good posts here and here from Mark Guzdial ( and a lot of good comments too). The big thing for me is that it gets […]


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