8 mindless ways to undermine teaching and learning

Dennis Sparks

Educational mindlessness can take many forms.

Here are 8 ways in which it can harm both the students and adults in our schools:

1. Mindless views of teaching and learning that reduce them  to formulas and scripts, robbing the teaching-learning process of its complexity and nuance.

2. Mindless teaching that says that one method is as good as another and that it is acceptable to continue to do the same things over and over again no matter what the outcome.

3. Mindless programs and practices which are not aligned with expressed values and goals.

4. Mindless development of and adherence to bureaucratic rules and regulations that do not serve the best interests of students.

5. Mindless lack of concern about the effects of one’s words and actions on others.

6. Mindless references to research, such as “research says…,” with little understanding of the implications and limitations of that research.

7. Mindless meetings that discuss the obvious and debate the trivial.

8. Mindless professional development that does little to strengthen professional judgment, deepen understanding, and create new habits of mind and practice that benefit students.

What would you add to my list?

3 Responses to “8 mindless ways to undermine teaching and learning”

  1. 1 Jennie Snyder May 26, 2013 at 2:33 pm

    Dennis, You’ve captured my “greatest hits” list. I am currently thinking through #8 (the pd piece) and really working on how to create more meaningful learning that deepens our understanding and transforms our practices. With respect to #6 (reference to “research”), the willingness to cite with a solid grounding in the implications or the selective uses of such claims promotes instructional practices that are dubious at best. Thank you for your post!


  2. 3 Theodore Kryder May 28, 2013 at 2:17 pm

    I believe #4 in reference to discipline systems across education that focus on punitive and hurtful consequences is the most destructive. “Discere” meaning “to learn” is the root of discipline and should be the center of a discipline system.

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