More MOOCMOOC Thoughts – Teaching Pedagogy

As part of the MOOCMOOC experience this week, I have been giving a lot of consideration to some of the questions being posed. Here is a little taste of some of those thoughts.

I have given the class experience as cooking show analogy a lot of thought in more recent time. I have become more of a fan of many cooking shows than I ever would have thought likely. In fact, I absolutely believe that the basket test, used on Food Network’s Chopped, which is derived from the final exam at the Culinary Institute of America is one of the single best assessments of any kind I have ever seen. It is an absolute demonstration of true mastery in a field. In fact, I have had the privilege of working with someone who attended CIA and as they have described it to me it is an even richer experience than a television competition could hope to reveal.

As a high school teacher, I have grown increasingly more disenchanted with the entire term “best practices” as it has been diluted to meaninglessness. Truth is while best practices might exist, but they are never universally applicable. Just because something works in one context is no guarantee it will not crash completely in another. Every move, strategy, concept, response, or hunch a teacher makes is not necessarily portable and replicable.

I have long thought that teaching is a form of strange alchemy, part craft and part art. All teachers can work on their craft and improve. I would even contend that they can improve their art. Yet art invites talent into the calculus and that is a much more randomized variable. None of us are born with an equal amount or same kinds of that magic stuff. None of us are cogs in a wheel and neither are our students.

Consequently, this idea that every lesson must be spelled out completely, complete with explicit rubrics grows less and less appealing the longer I teach. Of course an objective should be clear but does the outcome need to be so predetermined and closed? Moreover, I have grown more and more convinced that rubrics will be this educational era’s grade curve, an idea that has legitimacy and merit in certain contexts but is routinely misapplied.

The assertions in MOOCMOOC, including the cooking show cue, remind me of the final stage of a samurai’s training. While a young warrior would begin essentially as a servant/student to a master. The master would provide them with a structure, purpose, and instruction. Successful service in this pursuit would yield what amounted to a very capable craftsman. However, they would not be considered a true samurai, an artist, until they had lit out on their own to practice what they had learned before settling into a more formal role. I actually think something quite similar to this way is far more persistent and present than we sometimes recognize. It is a theme that has been resurfacing in my mind almost ever since I made the decision to become a teacher.

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