Steve Wheeler came up with a 10 item list called “Cruel Pedagogy.” In it he lists ten things that teachers should do to be cruel while teaching; where the practice of teaching becomes a cruel experience for the students.
It might very well be that the teacher is a nice person, but the pedagogy they use, the techniques they employ with their students have long term negative impact on student’s learning.
The ten “cruel pedagogy” practices he listed are:
1. Place all chairs and tables in rows facing ‘the front’
2. Talk at your students
3. Cram your slides with text (green on red is a particularly confusing color combination)
4. Insist on there being only one right answer
5. Ensure there is no time for questions and discussion
6. Test and grade regularly
7. Fail students who don’t meet the test standards
8. Assign copious amounts of homework
9. Compartmentalize knowledge so students can’t make connections
10. Ban the use of all technology from your classroom
I think that I can add a few more to his list based on the things I have seen over the years:
11. Assign work where the product is the same every time
12. Don’t allow for creativity in student work
13. Move on to the next topic without making sure that students understand the previous one
14. Mumble to yourself and speak away from the students
15. Compare students to previous classes, their siblings, other students in the same class
16. Tell advanced students that they should intuitively understand
17. Tell students with challenges that it’s time to move on
18. Never accept late work
19. Tell girls that there aren’t many women in the field you are studying
20. Teach the same way you taught last year, and the year before that, and the year before that…
21. Tell students to “leave their problems at home”
22. Remind students that life was harder for you when you were a student
23. Dismiss technology as “gizmos and gadgets”
24. Never ask for feedback from students
25. Use the same teacher edition you used ten years ago
26. Use lecture as your primary means of conveying information
27. Take points off grades for things that students have no control over
28. Take points off academic work for discipline issues
29. Never meet with student’s parents
30. Waste class time on tangents that have no relation to what students are learning
31. Include your personal problems in your lectures
32. Assure students that doing poorly in your class will lead to lifelong failure
33. Never relate what you are doing to current events
34. Do not allow students any say in the topics they learn
35. Do not relate any learning to their lives outside/after school
36. Never replicate techniques when students actually were learning in your class
37. Never give students a big picture of learning
38. Test on things that you either didn’t cover in class or spent very little time on
39. Hide from students before and after school but claim you are always available to meet with them
40. Give assignments that are more difficult than the examples you cited in class
41. Actually use the phrase “You will never…” With a student
42. Assume because you explained it so well, that students understand a topic
43. Tell students that it is always their fault that they scored low on tests
The list could go on and on. Every one has experienced teachers that exhibit the above characteristics. Don’t confuse cruel pedagogy with strict teachers. There are a lot of very good teachers that run a tight ship in their classrooms.
Cruel Pedagogy teachers are not these type of teachers. We have also experienced awesome teachers that are the exact opposite of the cruel pedagogy exhibited above.
Those are the teachers we must celebrate.
Those are the teachers that push the world forward. Can you add to the list? I bet you can.
Author: Tim Holt is an educator and writer, with over 33 years experience in education and opines on education-related topics here and on his own award-winning blog: HoltThink. He values your feedback.
Feel free to leave a comment. Read his previous columns here.