Teaching- Now and Then

Taking a look at how teaching styles have evolved over the past 20 years

Audrey White and Grae Stockhausen

In the past 20 years, school life has drastically changed. For students, it’s been easy to adapt as they only spend a short amount of time in each stage of school life, and can change their ways of learning easily. But for teachers, shifting away from traditional teaching methods so quickly, such as lecturing and note-taking, has proven to be a struggle for a few. 

20 years ago, students would have to go to the library to research a topic for the essay they’re writing about, or have to wait to talk to their teacher until the next day and ask for help. Now, articles can be found online for any topic and emails can be sent from nearly anywhere to nearly anyone. Technology has assisted learning a lot, providing resources teachers couldn’t access before and networks for presenting topics to classes. Needless to say, both students and teachers have had to adapt to some new techniques. 

“Technology does more of the work, you have more resources that are readily available, a more readily diversified line of sources to get information, you can diversify your teaching and you have more diversified approaches,” Dr. Martino, a Chemistry teacher at CHS, says.

Did you know that Chesterton High School used to reside in the now Middle School building? They didn’t have maroon and gold days either, it was all eight blocks daily. Going from an old, cramped building to a new building, with new technology and scheduling is a lot of change in a short amount of time. Students had a hard time adjusting to the changing schedules and the new building layout. Teachers were having a difficult time grappling with the technological changes. Canvas and laptops were a new thing for everyone and switching over from having eight short periods to four long periods was also a challenging adoption. While it was difficult for staff and students alike to adapt, it has seemed to be viewed as a good change. 

“I truthfully think it was a positive change, you know the whole point of going to block scheduling was to kind of mirror what school would be like when you move onto the next time, like college. It would give us more time to go in-depth with some topics,” Mr. Sensibaugh, a CHS Social Studies teacher, says. 

Back then, teaching was more traditional in a sense. Lectures frequented classrooms and textbooks were handed out on the first day of school to prepare students for the coming lessons of the year. However, as time has progressed, there has been a shift from using hands-on materials to tech-based materials. While tech-based classes dominate the school, there are still classes, mainly art classes, that require hands-on learning. 

“My class is mostly traditionally based because they’re learning skills that are very hands-on, so I’ll teach them how to do a skill during a lecture and a demonstration and then they will go from there,” The new ceramics teacher, Ms. Kurt, states.

As learning and teaching have both shifted in practice over the past few decades, the classroom has become increasingly focused on independent learning rather than dependent learning. Nowadays, teachers typically assign work to students heavily based on notes and other resources available to students at all times. Students can do their work from their laptops in almost any setting- although that is not to say that students do not interact with one another.

“Now it’s more student-centered than ever, the push when I first started was ‘Make it more student-centered,’ now it has a little bit of both, but make it student-centered and engage the students too like never before,” Martino, added.

Despite that, students can do their work more independently than before, students and teachers still engage in class discussions and class-wide activities that involve each party.

“If the lesson is going well, it involves the students doing something. In the past two years, I’ve done a new way of teaching for myself that seems to involve me more in front of the class but it also is getting input from the students and constant interaction. It’s all about like, I don’t want to say work because I don’t look at it as that, the learning is being done by the students instead of me giving information and students taking it in, writing it down, regurgitating it back to a test,” Mr. Justin Martinson, German teacher, says.

Teaching has changed a lot over the last 20 years, ranging from technological advancements to schedule changes to course expansions. However, at heart, school and its educational goals remain the same at heart.