12 July 2008

On advertising styles and teaching styles

On "Thinking Allowed" this week, there was a discussion of advertising, which included the question of differing US and British approaches. In the US, a contributor argued, an agency is expected to sell hard, and full on; it would never be allowed to get away with the British approach, which relies on humour and is frequently quite oblique and sometimes downright obscure.

The typology works in relation to teaching, too. There is pressure from curriculum authorities and validating bodies and assessment regimes to get the message across full on. Spell it out! Simplify! Use technology (even when it can't add anything)! The FE system, and increasingly HE is dominated by this simplistic approach.

My own preference of course is for indirect teaching, rather more like the British approach to advertising. Of course it is not as obvious when it is working, and sadly, increasingly students used to the "US" model find it difficult to relate to. So perhaps it is appropriate that I am retiring.

But I was interested to come across a ten-year-old book this week which—from the kind of critical perspective of ten years ago, but also from the USA—explored quite comprehensibly the nature of the teaching and learning encounter, and how and why the "US model" inhibits learning rather than encourages it.

Ellsworth E (1997) Teaching Positions; difference, pedagogy and the power of address Columbia; Teachers' College Press.

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