Teaching the entire class at the same time has a place in education. There are times when it is most effective and beneficial to the students when they actually sit and listen to what the teacher has to say. Having said that, there are also many instances when this approach is not appropriate in learning. This post will take a look at the pros and cons of whole-class instruction.
The following are some instances when whole-class teaching my be useful
- When the teacher needs control
- To increase a social cohesion
- When it is preferred
When the teacher needs the power whole-class teaching is useful. This is most common when giving instructions, doing a demonstrations, or explaining something that is completely new to the class. Other instances when whole-teaching is useful is when the teacher is presenting visuals or other forms of media.
Teaching to the whole-class is also beneficial in terms of social cohesion. In some cultures, doing things together is important. This is particularly true in collectivist societies. When everyone is listening together and laughing together it builds community. This is difficult for some to understand but it is necessary to be aware of this depending on the context.
Whole-class teaching could also be the preference of the students and teacher regardless of culture. Some students do not like to work in groups while others prefer the anonymity of being in a larger group focused on the teacher. For whatever reason, whole-class teaching works just because of the setting.
Some problems with whole-class teaching are below
- Passive, transmission of knowledge learning
- Overly collective
- Difficult for shy students
Whole-class teaching leads to the teacher transmitting knowledge to the students. This goes against active learning in which students participate in their learning. It is exceedingly boring for many people and does not help in retaining, understanding and applying new knowledge. Passive learning is not a way to make active learners who can do something with what they have learned
Whole-class teaching is also seen as overly collective. Everyone is forced to do the same thing. This goes against the ideal of differentiated instruction which promotes having students do different things in the classroom at the same time. Students are usually heterogeneous in terms of their skills and abilities so it makes it difficult to support consistent use of only whole-class teaching.
Lastly, whole-class teaching makes it challenging for shy students to participate. Many students do not want to speak in front of the whole class as they do not like this kind of pressure. However, in small groups, these same students feel much more comfortable sharing their views. Therefore, occasional use of small groups, even in collectivists contexts, will allow all students an opportunity for fuller participation.
Whole-class learning still has a place in education. The question is how much of a place? The point is that a moderate approach to whole-class instruction is beneficial to students and the teacher. There are times when this approach is the best and there are many times when it does not work. It is best for the teacher to determine when to use this approach based on the needs of their students.