When a good teaching book falls short

Paul Romani

I’m currently reading a book called Five Perspectives on Teaching in Adult and Higher Education (by Daniel D. Pratt).
The book was written to enlighten educators to the bias that exists in our way of thinking and, consequently, our teaching approach/philosophy.
Pratt’s arguments ring true in so many ways, as really he’s describing sociological norms about humans and society. Ultimately, he essentially presents the nature of human culture – deep culture – and how it shapes our way of thinking, as well as our reactions to differing ways of thinking.
Despite hitting this nail on the head, Pratt’s book falls short when it comes to his depiction of the elements of education. He has a diagram that represents the ‘players’ involved in education: the teacher, the learners, the content, and the ideals that join them. Differing teaching beliefs will direct priority towards certain elements. For example, a traditional teacher will put focus on the teacher than the content.
However, I find that this diagram is hardly complete and needs ‘Pear-Tree-fying’, as follows:
As you can see, Pear Tree Education appreciates that society plays an important role in education. As a result, society provides the learner with a relevant context in order to learn HOW to apply knowledge and content to real-life. This is where the application of education comes into play. Otherwise, education is just a process of memorising facts that happens in isolation, and becomes completely irrelevant the moment you leave school. This is the common problem with education at all levels from elementary to university.
Without this vital element, both traditional and supposed ‘modern’ educators miss the point of education. It’s not about transmitting a bunch of facts and rules, as the traditionalists would maintain, and nor is it a group of learners, living in an isolated bubble, thinking of random abstract concepts which have no point or usefulness – lovely as that sounds.
True education is about learners and educators finding effective ways to apply education to the real world in order to empower people, and to help them find a happy and rewarding role in the world.