Modern teaching techniques where pupils are allowed to learn through play can lead to poor behaviour, a new report warns.
So called active learning – where pupils are also encouraged to work in groups or teach each other – have also been blamed for a lack of focus in secondary school when pupils sit exams.
The warning comes in a report by Ipsos MORI Scotland following a survey of teachers’ attitudes towards behaviour in primary and secondary schools, commissioned by the Scottish Government.
The report says schools have been encouraged to introduce a greater variety of teaching techniques under Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) to help engage pupils.
The report found active learning had led to increased engagement, but highlighted concerns the new emphasis meant some pupils struggled with more traditional teaching approaches, such as working quietly on writing tasks or listening to the teacher.
It said: “There was a view among secondary teachers that the extensive use of active learning approaches in primary and early secondary meant that, in the senior phase of secondary, some pupils struggled when traditional approaches were required.
“Linked to this, pupils themselves talked about finding it uncomfortable if the class was too silent.”
There was also concern active learning could be a trigger for greater disruption.
The report said: “Primary school staff indicated that pupils moving out of their seats could be a trigger for disruptive behaviour.
“There was the view that this should be managed by having a balance between physically active tasks and sitting down, as too much moving around can also lead to disruptive behaviour.”
Staff said group work helped to increase pupils’ social skills, but there was agreement it could lead to “off-task chatting at times”.
Andrea Bradley, assistant secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland teaching union, said active learning was a crucial part of teaching.
She said: “We support the use of teaching techniques that maximise the engagement and enjoyment of pupils in their learning.
“Much sound learning is about “doing” and collaborating and co-operating well with others. Active learning approaches have been central to CfE, but clearly there is scope also for more traditional approaches too.
“A significant degree of professional skill is involved in matching learning activities to the desired learning outcomes, taking account of individual learning needs, including around behaviour. Resources are key to teachers being able to achieving the right balance.”
Ms Bradley said smaller class sizes and specialist additional support needs provision was crucial in enabling children overcome any difficulties that they might face regarding behaviour, concentration and their wider learning.
Joanna Murphy, chairwoman of the National Parent Forum of Scotland, said active learning, along with other strategies, had a crucial role to play.
She said: “We know children learn in different ways so teaching needs to accommodate that. There is room for them all when used wisely.”
Eileen Prior, executive director of the Scottish Parent Teacher Council (SPTC), said active learning was proven to be a very effective way of engaging children.
She said: “It means their brains are actively engaged in their learning, through discussion, creative thinking, problem-solving, listening and much more, rather than them being passively spoon-fed content in the teaching style of our Victorian predecessors.
“Those who perceive active learning as disruptive because pupils “move around” seem to have misunderstood what active learning actually is.
“For some children with learning difficulties or younger children, sitting still is a major barrier to learning, and teaching approaches which enable movement will help those children to learn more successfully.”
A spokesman for curriculum body Education Scotland said: “Active learning takes place when children and young people are fully engaged with the learning process, and understand what they are learning and why.
“Active learning can take place when children and young people are listening to the teacher, working quietly and as individuals, as well as when they are involved in group discussions, physical activities and practical work.
“Through CfE we see many lessons where teachers are providing well-planned activities which challenge and encourage children to engage fully in their learning.”
For further information please visit http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/education/15820042.Teachers_warn_learning_through_play_can_lead_to_pupil_disruption/