Embracing Questions in the Classroom

Every time I teach Teaching Methods, a class for students who have a B.A. and are starting their student teaching, I begin the semester by having my students read a chapter from Paolo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed. This chapter compares two approaches to education, “banking concept” and “problem posing.” Freire critiques the banking concept approach in which teachers feel they have all knowledge and that the student’s role in the classroom is merely to memorize and regurgitate what the teacher knows. Each year, my students have a passionate discussion about the article and Freire’s ideas reverberate throughout the semester.

This past week, I taught the Freire chapter for the first time in two and a half years and, again, my students responded passionately and articulately. This time, several of my students resisted Freire’s ideas to some degree, one asking why Japan’s educational system which, according to this student, takes a more banking concept approach but is successful and another student defending standardized testing. Both questions came from thoughtful, intelligent students (from what I can tell so far). And both questions reflected a willingness to question the teacher . . . which is what ought to happen in a problem posing classroom.

More than anything in this class, I want my students to become reflective thinkers and practioners. I want them to question me and decide for themselves what good teaching is. Sure, I hope that they embrace more student centered, constructivist pedagogies, but, ultimately, I don’t want them to be my clones. I want them to be their very best teacher selves.

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