Sunday, November 21, 2010

Teaching as assisted performance - Tharp & Gallimore 1988

Tharp, R. G. & Gallimore, R. (1988). The redefinition of teaching and schooling (Chapter 1, pp. 13-26), A theory of teaching as assisted performance (Chapter 2, pp. 27-43) in Rousing minds to life: Teaching, learning and schooling in social context. New York. Cambridge University

Thesis: Teaching must be redefined as assisted performance. Teaching consists in assisting performance. Teaching is occurring when performance is achieved with assistance.

Traditional "teaching": lecturing, explaining, and asking students questions

Duffy and his associates (Duffy, 1981; Duffy, Lanier, & Roehler, 1980) summarized the work on teacher effectiveness and drew two conclusions: (a) The most effective teachers of basic skills generate the greatest opportunity to learn. (b) Such teachers are technical managers of instructional materials and activities rather than theory-driven and reflective decision makers.

Teaching as assistance
  • Of what does this "other" kind of teaching consist? For one thing, it clearly involves subject-matter competence. To do more than manage activities and allow students to learn on their own, teachers must command the knowledge and skills they seek to impart (Shulman, 1986). The point of teaching is to impart knowledge and the capacity to process that knowledge
  • But knowing the subject matter is not sufficient for teachers. Pedagogical expertise is also required (Berliner, 1986), of which there are many kinds.
Rousing minds to life
  • Until internalization occurs, performance must be assisted.
  • Assisted performance identifies a fundamental process of development and learning.
  • Students cannot be left to learn on their own; teachers cannot be content to provide opportunities to learn and then assess outcomes; recitation must be deemphasized; responsive, assisting interactions must become commonplace in the classroom. Minds must be roused to life.
  • "If seek to promote the quality of teaching, reforms should also provide [teachers] some means to improve"
  • How are we to achieve in schools the conditions that will make them places for teachers as well as students? The solution will involve others besides teachers.
In one view, the definitions of teaching and teachers are straightforward and readily mastered: Teaching can be reduced to a few days of standard in-service training that teachers can implement on their own. Such teaching can be assessed with an observation form and teachers can be assessed with a test. The results of teaching can be checked by standardized achievement tests. (p.24)

In an other view. teaching is a complex, humane activity at which a teacher can grow steadily more proficient over the years by means of disciplined curiosity, continuous training, and skillful assistance. Teachers can be supported and evaluated by persons - including principals - who join with them in mastering and advancing the craft. In this view, one influences teachers primarily by organizing the support and recognition that will permit them to realize the higher motives of service that bring them to teaching.

Supervision should be defined - particularly in an institution devoted to teaching - as assisting performance in precisely the terms we used to define teaching.

"In collaborative settings, teachers acquire and develop better skills through their collective analysis, evaluation, and experimentation with new teaching strategies." (Rosenholtz, 1986, p. 518)

Chapter 2 - A theory of teaching as assisted performance

Assisted performance defines what a child can do with help, with the support of the environment, of others, and of the self. For Vygotsky, the contrast between assisted performance and unassisted performance identified the fundamental nexus of development and learning that he called the zone of proximal development (ZPD).

Vygotsky's work principally discusses children, but identical processes can be seen operating in the learning adult.

T & G's general definition of teaching: Teaching consists in assisting performance through the ZPD. Teaching can be said to occur when assistance is offered at points in the ZPD at which performance requires assistance.

The four stages of the ZPD:
Stage I: Where performance is assisted by more capable others
Stage II: Where performance is assisted by the self
Stage III: Where performance is developed, automatize, and "fossilized"
Stage IV: Where de-automatization of performance leads to recursion back through the ZPD

Responsive assistance
In the transition from other-assistance to self-assistance (and automatization) there are variations in the means and patterns of adult assistance to the child. At the earlier phases, assistance may be frequent and elaborate. Later, it occurs less often and is truncated . Adult assistance is contingent on and responsive to the child's level of performance.

If the truncated guidance fails, the adult may add additional hints, testing to find that minimum level of help the child needs to proceed. This continual adjustment of the level and amount of help is responsive to the child's level of performance and perceived need.

However, patient, contingent, responsive, and accurately tuned adult assistance does not always occur. A major variable here is the nature of the task or performance.

"Assistance" offered at too high a level will disrupt child performance and is not effective teaching. Once independent skill has been achieved, "assistance" becomes "interference."

That's why T & G say teaching occurs when assistance is offered at points in the ZPD at which performance requires assistance.

As common as assisted performance is in the interactions of parents and children, it is uncommon in those of teachers and students. Why?
First, to provide assistance in the ZPD, the assistor must be in close touch with the learner's relationship to the task. Sensitive and accurate assistance that challenges but does not dismay the learner cannot be achieved in the absence of information.
Second, while most parents do not need to be trained to assist performance, most teachers do. Teachers need a more elaborate set of skills in assistance, and they need to be more conscious of their application. Teachers need to learn good pedagogical practices.

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