Teaching has never been immune to fads. From the ‘open classroom’ movement of the 1960s to the ‘flipped classroom’ craze of the 2010s, teachers are always searching for better ways to reach and motivate their students. The latest fad is gamification—a popular method of increasing engagement in the classroom by making learning more fun and rewarding. But what makes a method effective? And why are schools so prone to fads in the first place?
Teaching is such a fickle profession. Every year it seems that there is a new bandwagon being tried in the classroom, and the same old problems are still plaguing schools: from the constant influx of new teachers fresh out of school to the mounds of paperwork that has to be filled out to get teaching certification. Some of these new teaching ideas are considered badly needed, while others are merely a fad.
The paradigm of excellent teaching is one of constant change. For decades, our profession has been plagued by the constant variables of new educational philosophies, the latest fads, and trendy teaching methods. The result is confusion, chaos, and failure for teachers.
There was a time when teaching was thought of as the most stable of professions. In the distant past, teachers were considered the unsung heroes of academia, and the best years of their lives were spent trying to reach young minds and help them develop into productive, intelligent adults. Yet now, in 2016, teaching has become the target of a fad—a fad that seems to be growing by the day. Why? What is it about teaching that makes it so prone to fads?
There are many approaches to education, and the teaching methods used are constantly evolving as well. One of the most frequently discussed aspects of teaching is its ability to influence students’ lives. Teachers, especially those in their first tenures, often feel the pressure to stay relevant and change with the times. Many of the changes that teachers experience are intended to improve the way they teach and improve the education of their students. However, some of these changes do not necessarily improve the education of students, leading to a reduction in student proficiency. Although some of these changes may improve the way teachers teach, others do not.
There seems to be a never-ending debate about the best way to do it when it comes to teaching. One of the most common arguments is whether teachers should use a “whole class” or “small group” method. The whole class method is the standard way of teaching and is where students all learn the same material at the same time. The small group method is when the students are split into small groups of about five students who learn the same material.
Teaching is a career that often hits the headlines when it comes to the latest teacher fad. A “new” approach to lesson planning has the potential to revolutionize the classroom, while the latest ed-tech darlings will change the way students learn. In reality, while there is always something new to take hold of, there is no single way to teach.
We teach because we love it. We love the students, the discipline, the process of learning. We love making a difference in people’s lives. But over the past few years, it seems like a fad has taken hold of the profession that is teaching. And it’s making us feel stuck. We want to teach, but we don’t know how to do it. We’re spending hours each week reading blogs, podcasts, books, and articles, looking for the latest strategies to help us improve our teaching. We’re counting steps instead of focusing on the students.
Every year, new education fads come out of the woodwork. Each year, they get more controversial, and each year they don’t last. One fad that gained notoriety in the education world this year was that teaching should be more active and engaging. The idea was that traditional teaching methods, such as lectures and paper-based assignments, were outdated. Instead, the new alternative to these methods was to create an interactive classroom, which would allow students to ask questions and engage in discussion with their teacher.