Educators have preferences for how they teach. Some argue these arise from the structure of the subject they teach. While that is an important consideration, it is also true that some of that structure is imposed by tradition in the fields and the teachers’ preference for the methods they experienced. Regardless of the age of the students one teaches or the subject they teach, all faculty are expected to attend (although no necessarily attend to) professional development activities in which “new” practices are described and demonstrated. In many cases, faculty are encouraged to adopt these methods.
One problem that arises out of this situation is faculty either develop or are exposed to a most favored pedagogy. These are the protocols or approaches that are used to organize a lesson. Any educator who has attended professional development in the recent past has most assuredly encountered a “think-pair-share” activity. The protocol is easily recognizable: First, the leader gives a presentation (it may be spoken, it may be an article participants read. Second, participant think about the ideas presented and are encouraged to write them down. Third, they pair with a neighbor and talk about their reactions. Finally, they share their observations with the larger group.
Think-pair-share is grounded in a reasonable model of human learning. It encourages individuals who connect to the new ideas (through thinking), it provides for social interaction (through pairing), and also multiple perspectives (through sharing). While it is effective, think- pair- share is not the only strategy whereby participants in professional development (or learners in any setting) can connect with new ideas, interact, and gain perspective. Some leaders of PD and educators proceed as if it is, however.
When a single approach to lessons become the most favored pedagogy, it is used to the exclusion of others, or at least it dominates others. A classroom observer (or the leader or instructor which is paying attention) can often observe negative reactions from students when the most favored pedagogy has been over used. “Not this again,” is seen in body language, eye rolls, and mutterings when it is overused.