Outdated Education

Outdated Educational Practices and Why We Need A Shift

Education & Technology Various

Today’s article is inspired by the 30 Goal Free Conference and my points below focus on crucial concepts that may have become lost in the bureaucratic stranglehold that stifles educators all over the world.

Here is my list of outdated educational practices.

1) Killing talent with bureaucracy.

For me, the number one outdated educational practice is subverting the will of students and teachers to the tenets of the coursebook. Sometimes methodologies and curricula are so strictly over-analyzed and stringently applied that its as if they were designed to kill talent before its even born.

This article will not be about teachers doing the wrong thing. Teachers everywhere have hearts and minds bound, gagged and blindfolded by the establishment. This article is about rigid protocols and procedures. It’s also about a chronic, worldwide dysfunctional relationship with academia.

There is a very dangerous misconception that  nothing is of value unless it’s measured and tested exhaustively first. If Michelangelo had had to write an academic treatise on his Sistine Chapel ceiling, it would never have been born to inspire the world. It has been described as an artistic vision without precedent.

The interesting thing is that Michelangelo was also a scientist and we cannot say that his work was without precision, planning or analysis of form. The opposite is true. Yet, he had to work beyond precedent and, as teachers, we are told to follow precedent, quote precedent, and cite precedent after precedent. Yet, we are not lawyers, we are teachers. Action research seems to cover it. Isn’t that what the Renaissance was all about?

An example of action research with Michelangelo was when his first attempt at painting the ceiling went mouldy and he discovered a new mould resistant formula invented by…his assistant.

There’s a message for teachers in there. 😉

Strangely enough, what education took from the Renaissance was science without the art.
Yet, teachers everywhere are now empowered to bring art back into the classroom and technology has shown us new ways to supersede bureaucracy and the establishment. Is there any reason why multi-media and innovative forms of connectivity cannot herald a new Renaissance in education?
Why not show our students what vision is and help them to develop their own visions?


a) By recognizing that coursebooks are a guide but are not to be followed slavishly.

b) By using coursebooks as springboards for multi-media projects.

c) By encouraging the practise and production of language through art, theatre, storytelling and music, for example.

d) By experimenting and allowing students to experiment.

e) By engaging in action research.

2) Misunderstanding the nature of intelligence.

Our teachers and students are taught to excel intellectually in order to pursue individualistic ambitions and contribute to the rat race. The Western World has imposed a separatist notion of the self on education. Humanistic qualities are ignored or erroneously instilled through religious channels of dogma till the human being is actually removed from the equation.

Intellectualism is a sad accomplishment on its own . It may lead to some hollow accolades in the future but to impoverishment in relation to the state of being human.

It’s time to engage and nurture social and emotional intelligence, especially in this newly wired and socially connected world. Learning is social, and contributing to the fabric of human society is now a new form of social individualism. It means that individuals have the power to develop their own talents, but no longer have to do this in isolation. Now our citizen journalists, musicians and video-makers rule You Tube and social media. We need to prepare ourselves and our students for the responsibility we now have to be pro-active and make the world a better place.

We can do this by introducing the concept of giving into education and into our classrooms. We can start by giving our students the tools they need to be creative: thinking tools, feeling tools, and tools to showcase their work and personalized self-expression.

Creativity, like love itself, is a gift that simply by its expression benefits those who express it and those who receive it.

– Stephen Post PhD and Jill Neimark

3) Old school monopoly on knowledge, experiences and opportunities.

Old school mentality lacks soul. It’s a fear-based, elitist paradigm. As teachers we can walk away from these social scripts that tie us to falsely based hierarchies of little substance.

We have more power than we think.

Here is a circle instead of a hierarchy.  A visualisation of the ripple effect through setting goals – each goal is a pebble thrown into the great pond of influence where ripple effects emerge and then merge into each other….

Strangely enough, many of us have never got into goal-setting because we’ve been trained to follow the status quo, toe the line in the great hierarchy of things and, as a result, have no motivation to set goals for ourselves, as the powers that be dictate the goals.

I’ve always been fascinated by ripple effects and special thanks to Shelly Terrell for inspiring this goal-oriented ripple-effect from her 30 Goal challenge.

There are so many free volunteer initiatives online today that anyone with a connection can learn what they need to learn. Connected learning is community-based learning which has revolutionised so many models of learning from asynchronous to flipped learning models. Privilege in the old sense of the word has had its day.

4) Black and white thinking.

It’s sad but true that our schools and establishments have the power to perpetuate racism, sexism, religious intolerance and violence through imposing culturally influenced perspectives on young minds.

This outdated practice manifests itself in the teaching of nationalistic history and  cruel forms of one-upmanship, for example.  Our social conditioning trains us to see the world in unnatural forms of black and white. Yet, as homo sapiens we’ve been endowed with the gift of colour. Why can this not also translate into shades of meaning, mindsight and empathy?

This outdated practice is dangerous, and has proven to be apocalyptic.

When we learn to experience life in terms of colour the way nature intended, then we”ll become socially intelligent beings, rediscover empathy and come truly “alive”.


Steven Benjamin is an English Teacher in Athens

6) Reactive management as opposed to pro-active management.

We can move away from ”controlling” behavior to inspiring behavior. We can introduce new ways to co-operate with ”difficult” students. I’ve been studying pro-active management issues recently and that is subject for another article beyond the scope of this one.

I think it would be interesting for people to comment below on how they see pro-active classroom management moving away from top-down control to win-win co-operation instead, especially for those students who have been hurt by life.


Goals quoted from the 30 Goals challenge for teachers by Shelly Terrell

5) Giving teachers too much paperwork.

Millions of teachable moments are lost every day in schools all over the world due to paperwork that exhausts teachers, dulls their minds and kills the human spirit. Mismanagement of learning kills creativity. Governments and school managers would do well to employ the 20/80 principle. They need to realize what is important and allow teachers to focus on that whatever yields 80% of their results.

3650673328_2221e1c54b_zImage credit Scott Thompson

What kinds of results are we talking about?

Whatever results in true learning and making the world a better place as opposed to tests and more tests that form the bulk of paper work and steal precious moments from our teaching lives.

If you want to learn more about new streams of practice as opposed to out-dated practices, you can view this talk I made on the concept of giving to grow.

Here is the presentation.

Sylvia Guinan

is an online English teacher, writer and blogger who facilitates professional development online. She uses brain-friendly techniques to help students and teachers around the world. She designs educational materials, develops courses, writes resource papers and publishes ebooks. Her work is the result of much research into the psychology of learning, as well as hands-on experience with multi-media technology.

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