John W. Scheib, PhD

Ball State University


“Problem-posing has roots in the work of Dewey and Piaget, who urged active, inquiring education, through which students constructed meaning in successive phases and developed scientific habits of mind. They favored student-centered curricula oriented to the making of knowledge rather than to the memorizing of facts. Many educators have agreed with this dynamic approach, including Freire, who evolved from it his method of “problem-posing dialogue.” In a Freirean model for critical learning, the teacher is often defined as a problem-poser who leads a critical dialogue in class, and problem-posing is a synonym for the pedagogy itself.” – Ira Shor, Empowering Education (p. 31)


The front-loaded lecture, the mainstay of traditional education, can be a dangerous thing. It creates passivity among students and disengages them in the teaching-learning process. This ‘teacher-talk’ dominates classrooms – especially in academe. Why? Many teachers believe frontal lecturing to be the most efficient way to deliver content – the path of least resistance. Because the knowledge and skills they want to teach don’t come from students, they believe there is no other choice. Unfortunately, these teachers do not view course content as an inquiry, rather they see content as an established body of knowledge solely possessed by the teacher.


In contrast, arguably some of the greatest educational thinkers of our time view the classroom and course content quite differently. As well, understandings developed through learning theory and best practice research also are at odds with this traditional model. Through incorporating ideas from Dewey, Piaget, Freire, Shor, and others, this session presents strategies in curriculum design and instructional techniques that allow methods instructors to create a truly student-centered dialogic atmosphere in their classes. Through the use of problem-posing, student-led debates, small group cooperative learning projects, journaling, field experiences, peer-teachings, and electronic portfolio assessment, a methods class can be transformed into an empowering vehicle for student learning as well as help students foster a greater sense of ownership in their future profession.