Pseudoteaching doesn’t Happen in a Vacuum

John Burk, Frank Noschese, Rhett Allain and others recently started discussing the ideas of pseudoteaching, as kind of a spinoff from Dan Meyer’s pseudocontext. The concept is that even the most outwardly perfect lesson can result in students not actually getting what it is you wanted them to understand. It is not intended as an indictment of teachers, per se, but a sort of metacognition exercise to allow educators to step back and really reflect on what and how they are teaching, and what (and how) they want their students to learn. But teaching is not performed in isolation. There are students, parents, and schools involved. So I would like to extend the concept of pseudoteaching to include the following:


This ties in with Slater’s “Hidden Contract“, which suggests a mutual understanding understanding that if students behave the way they are expected to, the result is success in the course. And yet we have all had students who work way too hard, memorize everything, and then perform poorly on assessments because they know definitions, but not meanings (this is of course different from kids who say that “tried”, without really actually doing anything constructive). Going through the “expected” steps without extracting a solid, working understanding of a topic would be pseudolearning. Looks like good learning, but it doesn’t stick.

Recognizing pseudolearning, like pseudoteaching, is an exercise in metacognition. Students must learn to understand not just the material, but what actual learning means and looks like. Real teaching cannot occur without the cooperation of the student. No matter how good the instruction, if students think what they are doing is learning, when it is only pseudolearning, real teaching won’t happen. So it is imperative that students recognize the difference.


Extrapolating in the other direction, pseudoschooling would involve school that seems to do all the right things, all the things expected of it, but does not verify that the result is in fact improved student learning. I suspect most of us work in pseudoschooling environments, where decisions are made because they are supposed to be made, not because there is pedagogical reason to do so.

Teaching (and, indeed, pseudoteaching) does not occur in a vacuum. In order to be successful as educators we need to be cognizant of this.

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