February 9, 2011 by Willy Cardoso
In an era marked by constant transition and paradigm shifts (this is cliché), teachers are faced with opposing forces in their efforts of change, a duality that is found in all layers of social life. On the one hand, there are the demands of a postmodern society that foments technological advancements, multiculturalism, insecurity and uncertainty. On the other hand, the strong side-effects of modernity with its mechanistic paradigms and top-down control.
At the level of school improvement and educational reforms, new ideas are intended to be progressive and democratic, but their implementation and administration are still industrialized, that is, planned and controlled by a few and imposed on the majority. Teachers today are expected to promote pupils’ identity formation, higher order thinking skills and (multi)culturalization in order to ‘release in the market’ flexible and creative beings, or workforce. These new attributes of teachers’ responsibilities are not substitutes to last century’s pedagogy, they are an addition. At the same time society necessitates large bulks of this new person, the main instrument which they rely on to achieve such, namely schooling, is one of the most outdated enterprises of our time. (This is one of the educational paradoxes)
Today, what teaching is supposed to be is highly uncertain. With a post modern age challenging moral certainties and knowledge base, old missions and purposes begin to crumble (Hargreaves, 1994: 4) with no apparent replacements. Methods of instruction are constantly criticized and many are losing their scientific and philosophical validity (e.g. behaviorism and humanism respectively). If the knowledge base of teaching has no scientific foundation, educators ask, “on what can our justifications for practice be based?” (ibid.)