Teacher Cognition

Teacher cognition is one of the most powerful concepts in the area of supporting teaching and learning. The part I’m talking about is the part where teachers enter the field knowing what good teaching is. This means that they have no interest in changing what they are doing, because they have patterned their teaching on the model they have for what makes good teaching. Research shows us that the idea of what makes a good teacher is formed as early as secondary school, and is resistant to change, even through teacher training.

What this means is that in HE, lecturers enter the profession already knowing how they want to teach – based on their model of an ideal teacher. I remember hearing a talk about curriculum design wherein the speaker reported that in HE, basic curriculum design (the teaching and assessment strategy) is usually modelled on the teaching and assessment strategy that the lecturer experienced as a student (at least the one they most favoured).

In the mind of the lecturer designing a new course, there is clear and incontrovertible evidence that the method is extremely successful. It is themselves. They are a product of that teaching strategy, and so it is obvious that it worked, and worked well. With a few tweeks, it then becomes the bedrock method adopted for a whole new generation of students.

Given that teaching in HE institutions is a given, with little formal training, and little formal support (just get on with it) – and the emphasis is on producing publishable research (teaching is just a sideline), there is often little or no pressure to improve on the basic lecture.

As a teacher, thanks to teacher cognition, I basically know what good teaching is, and I’m not really interested in doing much more. I know there must be better ways of doing it, but, I’m getting by, and no one else is making a big fuss, so I just keep going the ay I’ve always gone.

Makes the job of improving teaching a difficult one. No real interest in the first place, no rewards for adopting different methods, and too much pressure in other areas means that little changes from year (decade) to year (decade).


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