Dealing with Reluctancy

No one wants to be wrong. Especially teachers. Especially when it pertains to their teaching methods. Teaching is extremely personal. It’s our profession. We paid a hefty amount of money to a university for quality training and a teaching certificate. So, when someone tells us we’ve been doing it wrong, we balk at the idea. For example, there are teachers and administrators who still believe it to be advantageous to teach to students’ preferred learning style. Although evidence has shown this is not effective, those who accept this practice are usually steadfast in their belief. By the way, in psychology, we call this belief perseverance

If you’ve read my blog, you know I am passionate about the implementation of strategies that are quite beneficial in the classroom for learning and retention of material. I guess that’s my niche in this blogging world. Occasionally, I am asked how I address those teachers and administrators who are reluctant to implement these strategies in their classroom. In general, I find there are three reasons teachers might give for avoiding the usage of these strategies. Below, I identify these reasons and provide the counterargument I usually use to combat the teacher/administrator’s apprehension. 

  1. “I’ve always done it this way” 

Generally speaking, this reason comes from teachers who are more…seasoned. They are in a rhythm. They get results and have this teaching thing down. Usually, the best way to discuss getting these teachers to use retrieval practice, spaced practice, et cetera in the classroom is with data. You’ve got to show them the change you’re proposing will be more beneficial than what they’re currently doing in the classroom. A great one stop shop for a plethora of statistics and resources is provided by Retrieval Practice. Dr. Pooja Agarwal delivers 6 practice guides by cognitive scientists. These guides range in topic from retrieval practice and spaced practice to interleaving and metacognition. I have also written an article that highlights 5+ research articles all teachers should read.

  1. “I don’t need new techniques”

I actually sympathize with this reason quite a bit. It’s really a bad joke…teachers seemingly know to expect a new program or piece of technology every new school year. There will, without fail, be a 1 hour faculty meeting to introduce and train all teachers on the ins and outs…and then teachers are expected to properly implement the program/tech flawlessly. But, as most teachers soon figure out, don’t worry if you don’t get it…that program/tech will be replaced next year by something else new. No wonder ‘new’ has such a bad connotation with teachers.

But, these learning strategies are not new at all. These strategies go back at least a century. (1) They are probably older than whatever techniques the teacher is currently using. These are not the fads that will be less useful next year. They are not subject specific and there’s evidence of their effectiveness with learners from the elementary to university level.

  1. “It’s more work”

I also understand this reason. The last thing a teacher needs with very limited time and resources is one more ‘to-do’. These strategies are not something extra to do on top of what a teacher normally does…these learning strategies should replace or modify what you are currently doing. And, in the long run, these strategies will save time. If students are remembering more and improving their level of understanding, there will be less time spent with make-up assignments and reteaching. In addition, you may be saving time by ridding your classroom of practices that are not effective. In my own experience, when I began utilizing these learning strategies about four years ago, everything from planning to instruction to assessment became much simpler, organized, efficient, and effective. 

A final, overarching, reason for implementing these learning strategies that should speak to the heart of every educator is they are effective and efficient for learning. Not only have they shown evidence of improved retention rates, they also demonstrate healthy study habits that will continue to benefit learners throughout their life. At the end of the day, I’m not sure there’s a more noble cause than the long-term benefits of improving a person’s education. 

Why do you believe teachers and administrators may be reluctant to implement more effective practices?

What have I missed? Don’t agree with me? Please feel free to write a rebuttal and I will add it to the end of this blog post. I don’t pretend to know it all or get everything just right…I have my own biases. Please feel free to add some balance to the conversation. 

Gates, A. I. (1922). Recitation as a factor in memorizing (No. 40). Science Press.

Photo by kyo azuma on Unsplash

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