After reading the article "Empowering Education: Critical Teaching for Social Change" by Ira Shor, and Elisabeth's blog post relating to it, I too was left thinking a lot about the different types classrooms I have been in throughout my schooling career and the effectiveness of each type. From my experience, the least effective classroom is one in which there was "a one-way transmission of rules and knowledge from teacher to students, stifling their curiosity" (Shor 2).
The first classroom that comes to mind where I experienced this is my eight grade history class. Each day, our teacher would close the door to the classroom right as the bell rang and start talking. She would talk non-stop until the bell signaling the end of class rang. She always had a PowerPoint presentation or some sort of graphic organizer that we were expected to follow to a tee. Every single person's notebook looked identical. There was a right way (her way) to take notes and organize your things, and a wrong way (any way besides hers). There was no opportunity for discussion or questions during the class. If a student raised his or her hand, she would give them a look that made anyone instantly reconsider keeping that hand up. Tests were straight-forward and came directly from her class lectures. If you could not answer the multiple choice, true/false, and fill-in-the-blank questions on the test, you did not understand the material. There was no other opportunity to display what you had learned. I truly felt that classroom was a one-way street.
On the other side of this was a classroom that "urged a reciprocal relationship between teachers and students where respect for the teacher coexisted with cooperative and student-centered pedagogy" (Shor 2).
I agree with what Elisabeth said in her blog, "that it is important to have classrooms where the students are not just copying down notes and listening to lecture, but can talk to their peers about problems and solutions being done in class so that they can fully understand why they come to that answer and how to figure it out next time. Students should feel comfortable enough to ask their teachers questions about topics inside and outside the classroom"
My senior English final project was actually a result of this. I had a great relationship with my teacher and actually questioned his original final project when he first discussed it with me because I felt that it would really limit the sharing of knowledge and what we had learned. He listened to my argument against his project plan and for my proposal (which is the one I discussed above). Everyone loved the project, including him. He even continued using it in following years. For the first time in my schooling, I felt like I was able to show what I learned in my own creative way, with no limits of standardized or teacher-made tests. I just wish that this was "the norm" in schools K-12 because I feel that it would open up the doors of education for so many more students.