Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Banking System & Student-Centered Classrooms

When I think about what school was like in the olden days, I envision a stuffy school marm or superintendent standing at the front of the classroom imposing his or her knowledge and authority over the small, submissive students. Although I’m sure not every teacher was as domineering as I imagine, I know I wouldn’t want to be a student in such a sterile, oppressive classroom.

Educators like Friere have helped move American schools from this system to one that is more student-centered. Though I like teachers guiding the classroom (as do most students, as evidenced by the classroom experiment on Monday), I enjoy hearing the perspectives from other students and sharing insights. I think that Freire’s discussion of the banking metaphor and his call for it to be replaced with a problem-posing system was very important in making this kind of student to student and student to teacher interaction possible.

Articles published in the 70s like Freire’s “The Banking Concept of Education” and Murray’s “Teach Writing as a Process Not Product” seem to articulate, for the first time—as far as I am aware, the concern for student needs, expression, liberation, and development in the classroom. Rather than telling students what they need to know and why or what to write and how, educators are encouraging fellow educators to develop a more reciprocal relationship with their students and to give them more freedoms in their writing and academic pursuits.

These ideas radically changed our educational system and the results can be seen in our everyday classroom. In the education department, classes are offered on all kinds of topics geared towards meeting the needs of students in a variety of ways. There is a class on cooperative learning where teachers learn to group students in different ways to encourage learning. There is a class on diversity in education where teachers learn how to adapt to and incorporate cultural differences into the classroom. A course on instructional strategies is taught to help teachers differentiate instruction to meet the individual needs of their students and to reach all learner types. Additionally, in each of these classes and most classes I’ve been in, the students are required to participate in group discussions, comment in class, give presentations, and even develop their own assignments. Friere’s articulation of the need for a student-centered classroom served as a foundation for these kinds of changes to be introduced into the classroom.


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