Is Your Teaching Boring?
Dick Jones, Center Specialist
September 25, 2017
One of my favorite questions of high school students is to ask them to describe their school in one word. Describing the complexity of school in one word is difficult, yet insightful. Students in great schools do occasionally use complimentary words just as caring, challenging, fun, or family. But, the most frequent word I hear is “boring.” Try asking a group of teenagers about schools and see how many reply boring. Part of this feeling reflects the disconnect between school reality and teenage aspirations and desires. But, there is some truth and reality in the negative description that high school is boring.
Boring is a result of traditional teaching practices, which are teacher-centered, time-driven with homework and tests focused on recall of facts. Fewer students in Career and Technical Education (CTE) use the term boring since students are in a program they chose and the work is more engaging with visible projects and real-world problems. Any subject can reduce the boredom when teachers incorporate some of these project-based, student-centered approaches. However, even CTE instruction can become boring, if teachers let traditional teacher-centered practices slip back into their daily routines.
The term BORING can be an acronym for instructional practices that contribute to boring classrooms. When teachers create boring, they:
- Build lessons around learning large chunks of content knowledge with little context
- Oversimplify testing as recall of facts
- Reduce learning to students giving a single right answer
- Impose expectations that every student learn at same speed
- Narrow student thinking as passive accumulators of knowledge
- Give little feedback on work habits and stifle collaboration
Likewise, the term CAREER can be an acronym to describe the positive instructional elements of CTE which lead to more engaging instruction. The following six statements using the acronym CAREER define instruction which is exciting to students.
- Connect with Relevance
- Assess for Proficiency
- Reward Creativity and Innovation
- Engage as Independent Learners
- Empower with Hope and Confidence
- Rate Work Habits and Collaboration
These characteristics are more likely to occur in the CTE classroom. But, CTE teachers need to continually reflect on their instructional practices and choices to ensure that they do not let teaching become. Also, any teacher can bring these characteristics into their instruction and increase student passion and commitment to learning.
The NYS CTE Technical Assistance Center has created six CAREER Instructional Model surveys to help teachers reflect on his or her classroom and teaching strategies. Take a few minutes to try out the surveys and see if your classroom has the elements that avoid students from feeling boredom.