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Dangling Methodology: A bane of Utilitarian Education

Good teaching should be learner-centred. It prioritises the end which it is supposed to achieve.

Good teaching should be learner-centred. It prioritises the end which it is supposed to achieve.

Utilitarian learning is alien to a system of education where dangling methodology prevails, and so, real-life application of the education acquired becomes ill-conceived and foggy. Dangling Methodology has been coined in this article to describe a kind of approach to teaching-learning which makes teaching parallel to the end which it is supposed to achieve, thereby creating a disconnect between the process and its objective.

At least two values are derived from, or through teaching. They are the intrinsic and the extrinsic values. The intrinsic value of teaching is an accomplishment in itself while the extrinsic value is a process to a destination; a means to an accomplishment. The two have their benefits but the first is prone to abuse by some practitioners.

The intrinsic value of teaching could include that gratifying sensation derived from the mere practice of teaching. It might not in all cases be a threat to the expected teaching outcome; it could serve as a form of self-motivation for teachers. However, if the feeling becomes regularly relished at the expense of the learner and the learning outcome, then it constitutes a malpractice.

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For instance, a teacher could derive some satisfaction from using high falutin words, introducing complex concepts, proving to the poor children how much she or he knows, initiating teaching process from the unknown, etc.

These might not always be in the interest of the learner, or enhance positive learning outcomes. It could be a mere show-off! The teacher in this case, employs all kinds of self-satisfying techniques in the classroom, feels good about himself and concludes, without any serious consideration to the learner, the ultimate beneficiary, and the primary purpose of the lesson.

Good teaching should be learner-centred. It prioritises the end which it is supposed to achieve. This explains why teaching should, more often, be viewed as a means to an end, and not an end in itself. Therefore, the extrinsic value of teaching should always be kept in mind by teachers whenever they think of teaching and take decisions about what to teach and how to teach it.

The estrangement of self-reliance discussed above, is a manifestation of dangling methodology, and fixing the anomaly necessitates a kind of revolutionary approach to teaching. As recommended above, teachers should have the extrinsic value of teaching in mind when preparing their lessons and when delivering them. By this, it is hoped that the utilitarian worth and essence of teaching lurk behind every motivation of teachers. To overcome dangling methodology, three approaches are recommended and discussed briefly below.

Teachers should situate their lessons within likely purposes that such lessons could serve in real life. Teaching should be tailored toward the present and future realities which (or will) occupy the world of the learner. This imposes a responsibility on teachers. When preparing a lesson on any topic, they have to anticipate several possible uses to which the topic could be put. The next step is to make connections between what is being taught at that particular time and such hypothetical uses. This brings the lesson alive, making it concrete, vivid and practical.

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Another productive move is to adopt eclectic methods. The nature and the (imagined) practical value of a topic should naturally dictate the method to be employed in delivering it. At times, a topic could require a combination of methods and techniques. This is when and why it is recommended that a couple of appropriate methods be selected and integrated to teach the topic at hand.

Finally, teachers should be creative in both lesson preparation and delivery. So much is involved in making teaching creative. First and foremost, the teacher should create contexts for topics to be taught based on the possible future or present uses already imagined. It is tempting at times to complain that some topics in the syllabus are dry and abstract. Creating contexts can make such so-called abstract topics concrete. To enrich the contexts, teachers can create and improvise aids that will enhance understanding and retention.

The above approach to teaching can make learning practical, productive and functional. It will help learners develop aptitudes, creativity and problem-solving skills, as well as making connections between lessons and real-life issues. It will also serve to redirect the undue emphasis placed certificates at the expense of abilities, and correct the impression that the whole essence of teaching ends with sitting and passing examinations.

Mewhenu Hosu is a researcher, writer, and Pioneer Vice Principal, Lagos State University International School, Ojo, Lagos State.

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