A flawed case against teaching: Scaffolding, direct instruction, and learner-centered classrooms

June 10, 2014 at 9:57 am 5 comments

Premise 1: Teaching is a human endeavor that does not and cannot improve over time.

Premise 2: Human beings are fantastic learners.

Premise 3: Humans don’t learn well in the teaching-focused classroom.

Conclusion: We won’t meet the needs for more and better higher education until professors become designers of learning experiences and not teachers.

at Change | The Case Against Teaching


Interesting argument linked above, but wrong.


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5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. David Wees (@davidwees)  |  June 10, 2014 at 10:28 pm

    Apparently the case for Sweller et al.’s argument is not as solid as they make out. See http://edtechdev.wordpress.com/2009/11/16/cognitive-load-theory-failure/ for example.

    It is probably worth noting that the paper you linked to has some rebuttals to it as well.

    Of course, all of this could be true, and the conclusions drawn by the article you linked could still be overstated.

    • 2. Mark Guzdial  |  June 11, 2014 at 11:11 am

      David, I’m trying to avoid getting caught up in education-religion wars.

      I’m not referencing Sweller et al. because of their claims about minimally guided instruction failing. In science, it’s pretty rare that we can prove something can’t work, and I don’t think Sweller et al. supported that claim well. However, they do well support the success of direct instruction, and that’s the point that I was referencing them for. Sure, there are rebuttals, but the rebuttals that were published in response don’t challenge the idea that direct instruction works.

      Doug’s EdTechDev blog post is really great (but dated), but I don’t see how it’s relevant to this post. Are you arguing that Sweller’s points about minimally-guided and direct instruction are wrong because his theories on cognitive load have been challenged? I’d rather discuss the points of the papers, not the personalities.

      Since the 2009 blog post, there are now measures for cognitive load. In fact, Briana Morrison, Brian Dorn, and I have just had a paper accepted to ICER 2014 where we have created a measure on cognitive load for CS by adapting an instrument successfully used in statistics.

  • 3. nickfalkner  |  June 10, 2014 at 10:29 pm

    Ngggh. When I read this I nearly swallowed a filling. And I don’t have fillings.

    Premise 1: Zebras are a type of bee. (False premise)

    Premise 2: Hyenas eat well. (True but they eat better when there are enough predators around who are fresh kill eaters.)

    Premise 3: Hyenas do not meet the waitstaff’s standards of behaviour when eating in high-end French Restaurants in New York. (Almost no-one does.)

    Conclusion: We won’t be able to enjoy a Food Channel of Hyena-related Culinary Achievement until such time as Hyenas become chefs and zebras stop stinging tourists.

  • 4. J. McGrath Cohoon  |  June 11, 2014 at 8:40 pm

    I thought the most current thinking was that all types of of pedagogy can be done well or poorly, but that a scaffolding, for example had lots of empirical support.

    • 5. Mark Guzdial  |  June 12, 2014 at 9:34 am

      Certainly, many forms of pedagogy can work (and can fail). The argument of the “Change” article is that teachers aren’t necessary or useful. I’m arguing that teachers are useful for all and necessary for most, and our strongest evidence is for direct instruction.


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