All of this talk about education reform, I thought I would post some thoughts on my conception of reform. Importantly, reform is something that can happen in individual classrooms. While systemic paradigmatic shift would be great, this kind of change is not likely nor practical. Instead, the individual teacher has the power to implement reform. The teacher has a critical role in promoting an environment conducive to high levels of student mental engagement and active participation.
The role of the teacher in a reform-based classroom is summarized in the National Science Education Standards (1996) as follows:
Teachers use collaborative groups and work to engage their students in explaining, clarifying, and justifying what they have learned. The teacher’s role in these small and larger group interactions is to listen, encourage broad participation, and judge how to guide discussion – determine ideas to follow, ideas to question, information to provide, and connections to make. In the hands of a skilled teacher, such group work leads students to recognize the expertise that different members of the group add to the endeavor and the greater value of argument…(NRC, 1996).
Implementing reforms-based teaching requires an emphasis on student thinking and learning over rigid methods of instruction such as lecture. Teachers in a reforms-based classroom make decisions that involve students in the learning process. The students are the center of instruction, not the teacher!