Annotated Bibliography of Resources for Educational Reform, Coherent Teaching Practice, and Improved Student Learning

You are viewing a resource record entry from SEDL's Annotated Bibliography Database.

  • Marshall, H. H. (1988). Work or learning: Implications of classroom metaphors. Educational Researcher, 17 (9). 9-16.

Metaphors imply a theory about the nature of the object or event to which they are applied. In this classic paper, Marshall reminds us that it is important to consider carefully the metaphors that we select to guide research (and the subsequent application of the research to teaching practice) because the metaphors limit what we see and do. Marshall explores one pervasive metaphor for classroom teachingÑthe workplace or factory metaphorÑthat has been used to drive research and to develop teaching models. She notes some words used to describe classrooms that come from this viewpointÑmanagement, homework, schoolwork, seatwork, work habits, and so on. The workplace metaphor has guided research in classroom management (students are workers, the teacher is the manager), task assignment and evaluation (students produce products which are graded), motivation (learners are rewarded for their performance), and interpersonal relations (the teacher is the authority). Marshall proposes an alternative, more productive metaphor for classroomsÑas a learning placeÑand for studentsÑas apprentice-artisans or professionals-in-training. These metaphors are derived from cognitive psychology; the workplace metaphor comes more from behaviorist conceptions. Marshall then compares work, recreational, and learning settings. For example, learning is the intent in learning place, but not in work or recreational settings. She concludes with the observation that changes need to be made so that students see the purpose of schooling as learning rather than work. The focus should be on the student as a learner rather than as a worker.

Return to: Annotated Bibliography Search Page