Learning and teaching in 21st century should definitely be fueled with something much more than fear, force and artificial authority. After all we want for students to have strong integrity and self-confidence. And the curricula and evaluations, in addition to the classroom management practices, have been designed for students to benefit from the time they spend in the school. Right?
Alas, the history of education is filled with good intentions turned into catastrophies. When teachers and education policy makers are operating with the objective view of learning in mind, the end result becomes a standardized description of a well performing student (without any individual interests and goals, being a puppet in the system bending to the intractable forces of maximum achievement). Einstein expressed his views of the principal educational methods being fear, force and artificial authority. (Clark, 1971, p.13)
The scary part is that even today, more than one hudred years later, the same methods of fear, force and artificial authority are still well and alive in the schools around the world. Why?
Maybe it is easier to convince students about the importance of doing well on tests by instilling the fear of not being able to get admitted to a reputable college/univeristy/workplace unless the test scores demonstrate brilliance? Maybe it is easier to control student behaviors by displaying artificial authority of being the keeper of the scores or grades? But, from decades of research and practice we know that students learn better when they learn in an environment that is safe, supportive and collaborative. And we don’t need “servile helots”, but critical thinkers who will thrive in the 21st century environment where information and choices are more abundant than ever before.
The psychological research and practice have advanced very much during the past century. American Psychological Association has published the Top 20 Principles to be used at schools. What blows my mind is how few teachers have heard about these, or their predecessor Learner-centered Psychological Principles. Yet, I consider the APA to be the highest authority of educational psychology in the U.S. and a positive influence in the world in general.
These Top 20 principles have been divided into 5 areas of psychological functioning:
- Cognition and learning: How do students think and learn?
- Motivation: What motivates students?
- Social context and emotional dimensions: Why are social context, interpersonal relations and emotional well-being important to student learning?
- Context and learning: How can the classroom best be managed?
- Assessment: How can teachers assess student progress?
All the 20 principles are displayed below in a table.
What you do in your classroom – whether online on traditional – is your choice. The psychological principles are compatible with every subject and every curriculum. Why not give it a try and implement a safe, supportive and collaborative learning environment?
American Psychological Association, Coalition for Psychology in Schools and Education. (2015). Top 20 principles from psychology for pre K–12 teaching and learning. Retrieved from http:// http://www.apa.org/ed/schools/cpse/top-twenty-principles.pdf
Clark, R.W. (1971). Einstein: The life and times. New York: World.