1. Lenguas Extranjeras 4º año – I.I.N.N. – C.F.E. – A.N.E.P.
Prof. Mtra. Graciela Bilat
Getting Students to Do Things for Themselves
21 July 2014
The second in a series of blog posts on learning English as a Second Language by Peter Lucantoni,
author of Cambridge IGCSE English as a Second Language.
“Spoon-feeding in the long run teaches us nothing but the shape of the spoon”. (E. M.
Something which often comes up during training events is whether
or not teachers think they are working too hard inside the classroom
(and, for that matter, outside, too). Invariably the answer from
teachers is pretty much a unanimous and resounding ‘Yes, we
are!’ A follow-up question is usually something along the lines
of: ‘Well, if you think you are working too hard, who is probably not
working very hard?’ The answer, of course, is‘The students’, which
leads very neatly into a third question: ‘And why is that?’ And so to
the topic of this blog and the reason for E M Forster’s words:‘Spoon-feeding
in the long run teaches us nothing but the shape of the
‘Spoon-feeding’ suggests that we are providing so much help and support to someone (in our case,
students) that they need to do very little for themselves, whether this is thinking about something,
asking questions about something, or actually producing something. Spoon-feeding is often seen as a
traditional (and outdated) teaching approach, a type of ‘rote-learning’ system, in which teachers ‘feed’
students with information, students memorise it and regurgitate it for a test or an exam, and then
forget it. No doubt many of us have experienced such a system, either because we have had to teach
in such a way, or have been on the receiving end of the approach. Judit Neurink in an online article
explains the spoon-feeding approach using a wonderful analogy: ‘I have at times compared a group of
students … with a nest full of baby birds, who open their beaks to receive the food the parent is
If an educational system encourages this approach to teaching and learning, then we can hardly
blame students for sitting back with their mouths open, waiting to be fed by teachers. Students will
normally accept whatever is offered, without question, more often than not because it is the easy
option, but also because they have learned through experience that it works.
The real problem of course comes to the fore when learners move from a spoon-feeding context into
one which expects learners to do things for themselves, to be inquisitive, to ask questions, and not to
accept things at face value. This often happens when teenagers move from high school to college or
university, or from one culture to another. When students who are not used to questioning things are
suddenly expected to do exactly that, a degree of shock usually follows.
‘The curriculum’, ‘the system’ and ‘the final exam’ are all frequently blamed for much of what goes on
in the classroom, both in terms of effective and less-effective teaching and learning. However, as
educators, we need to be aware of the hazards of adopting and prolonging a spoon-feeding approach,
and, as Judit Neurink concludes: ‘We need vision, and decision makers who understand the needs of
education in the 21st Century.’* We need, therefore, to ensure that our classroom practice promotes
questioning and thinking, and encourages students to find out what information is available to them,
above and beyond what the teacher and the coursebook offer them.
To end this blog post, the very well-known Chinese proverb below aptly sums up the discussion:
Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.
* Judit Neurink
[visited on July 24,2014]
2. Lenguas Extranjeras 4º año – I.I.N.N. – C.F.E. – A.N.E.P.
Prof. Mtra. Graciela Bilat
PRESENTACIÓN DEL TRABAJO:
1. Encabezado: IINN- C.F.E. Asignatura- Nombre del alumno- CI:
2. Tipo de letra: Arial 12
3. Copiar cada consigna y responder debajo, con su número correspondiente
( redacción en español)
ACTIVITIES: (total marks 12)
1. What type of text is it? ( 1 mark)
2. Highlight- a proverb
-the name of the author ( 2 marks- half each)
3. Write TRUE ( T) or FALSE ( F)
a. Spoon-feeding suggests that teachers are providing too much help to the
b. Spoon-feeding is seen as a modern teaching approach in which teachers
“feed” students with information.
c. It is necessary to understand the needs of education to promote
questioning and thinking.
4. Summarize the text in 80-100 words including your reflection about the topic.
( 6 marks)