Another dot in the blogosphere?

Real-world problem, really?

Posted on: October 10, 2019

I teach teachers. I used to focus on pre- and in-service teachers when I was a professor at NIE. Now I work with school teachers, polytechnic instructors, and future university faculty.

Part of that work is reviewing lesson plans and essays of those who are new to teaching. (When I say new, I mean uninitiated to the work of teaching and/or new to the scholarship of teaching.)

A phrase that these groups like to use in lesson designs and justifications for the same is “real-world problem”. I have a real problem with it.

How can teachers claim to design real-world problems from the confines of the classroom? How do they ensure that such problems are from the outside and not artificially manufactured?

How do teachers embrace the complexity and subjectivity of such problems? How do they actually start with questions instead of providing answers? How comfortable are they with not having all the solutions and being wrong in front of students?

“Real-world problems” seems to be a convenient catch-all term that looks good in plans and rationalisations. But it is also uncritical and lazy if teachers do not ponder the questions above first.

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