Behaviourism Versus Humanism

With few exceptions the learners in the group seem to prefer the methods adopted by teacher A, and this is evidenced by the disparate levels of unrelated chatter that can be seen in each session. For the most part during teacher A’s sessions there is very little talking amongst the learners whereas in teacher B’s sessions there is generally a great deal of talking that is unrelated to the subject matter. The majority of the group appear to feel much more comfortable with the structure of teacher A’s sessions, they are predictable, the exercises all have a ‘right’ answer and it is easy to identify and quantify exactly what has been learnt.

During these sessions the learners are generally quiet and moderately attentive. In contrast the majority seem to find teacher B’s approach much more difficult, the sessions are extremely challenging, highly unpredictable and the knowledge gained during each session is much more difficult to pinpoint. Increasingly during these sessions I have become aware of the unspoken communication used by the learners, this takes the form of shuffling…. several learners will start to shuffle their papers and pack their bags before the teacher has finished speaking.

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This behaviour is something that teacher B has either not noticed or chooses to ignore as this is never taken as a sign that the learners have disengaged. This is an illustration of a point made by Dixon and Woolhouse, in their article The Relationship Between Teachers’ and Learners’ Individual Teaching/Learning Styles, that ‘what teachers think is happening in the learning situation, may not be what is actually happening from the learner’s perspective’ (Dixon and Woolhouse 1996:17).

The implications of this are likely to be very negative should no apparent change occur either in the teaching methods used or the learners’ attitudes to the way in which they are taught. Kirsty Harding I can point to several reason why I believe the learners in the group react as they do to the two different approaches used by teachers A and B. Firstly, based upon discussion with other members of the group it has become apparent that they are most familiar, and therefore more comfortable, with cognitivistic methods as this was generally how they were taught during previous educational experiences.

Secondly teacher A has certain personal qualities that appeal to the learners, she is funny and personable, and, without a doubt, didactic methods depend largely ‘…. upon the personal or charismatic qualities of the lecturer… ‘ for much of their effectiveness (Griffin 2002:56). 6 Possibly the most important contributory factor has been that of context and explicitness of learning objectives for each of the modules. At the start of the modules teacher A was very explicit about the learning objectives of the module and the context of the teaching was set clearly.

In comparison teacher B stated no learning objectives and no context for the teaching, indeed this did not happen for some time, this resulted in the learners feeling confused as to what they were expected to learn and why. Unfortunately for teacher B, and many of the learners in the group, this initial confusion has had a lasting effect. With regard to my own personal views I can say without doubt that they have changed since the start of both the FENTO Level 4 Literacy course and the PGCE (FE) programme.

My initial feelings regarding the sessions taken by teacher B were very negative, I found that the sessions were disjointed and was often confused regarding the purpose of the sessions. In contrast I always enjoyed the sessions taken by teacher A and believed that the methods employed by teacher A were more appropriate and effective. However, as my own knowledge of teaching methods and approaches has increased my opinions on the two teaching styles has changed quite dramatically. I still recognise that the methods employed by teacher A are effective in engaging the learners and that they are appropriate for the subject Kirsty Harding

being taught, however I now also believe that these methods are also somewhat restrictive and limited in the sense that we, as learners, play a predominantly passive role in the learning experience and are not being challenged to develop our thinking beyond the sessions. In comparison my opinions of the methods and approach used by teacher B have become more positive. I am able to understand that these methods are being used in order to encourage the learners to engage in higher level thinking, to become more analytical and to develop a greater understanding of their own thought processes in relation to reading and writing.

The sessions are very challenging, but the challenge is intended to enable the learners to take an active role in their own learning and to grow as ‘independent thinkers’. For this reason I can now see that in order to achieve this it is necessary to employ a wider range of approaches and that whilst some of the methods may seem ineffective with regard to the earlier two pails analogy they are actually highly effective at producing long term personal outcomes for the learners with regard to their own thinking and understanding of the way others think.


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