14. Five Perspectives on Teaching

The first thing to be said about teaching methods is that there is no law or rule that says teaching methods are driven by theories of learning. Especially in post-secondary education, most instructors would be surprised if their teaching was labeled as behaviourist or constructivist. On the other hand, it would be less than accurate to call such teaching ‘theory-free’. We have seen how views about the nature of knowledge are likely to impact on preferred teaching methods. But it would be unwise to press this too hard. A great deal of teaching, at least at a post-secondary level, is based on an apprenticeship model of copying the same methods used by one’s own teachers, then gradually refining them from experience, without a great deal of attention being paid to theories of how students actually learn.

Dan Pratt (1998) studied 253 teachers of adults, across five different countries, and identified ‘five qualitatively different perspectives on teaching,… presenting each perspective as a legitimate view of teaching‘:

  • Transmission: Effective delivery of content (an objectivist approach)
  • Apprenticeship: Modelling ways of being (learning by doing under supervision)
  • Developmental: Cultivating ways of thinking (constructivist/cognitivist)
  • Nurturing: Facilitating self-efficacy (a fundamental tenet of connectivist MOOCs)
  • Social reform: Seeking a better society.

It can be seen that each of these perspectives relate to theories of learning to some extent, and they help to drive methods of teaching. So in practical terms, I will start by looking at some common methods of teaching, and assessing their appropriateness for developing the knowledge and skills.

I will organize these various methods of teaching into two lessons. The first lesson will discuss design models that derive from a more traditional school or campus-based teaching, and the second lesson will be focused on design models that make more use of Internet technologies.