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Spoon-feeding in Learning: What are the Harmful Effects?

Whenever people talk about learning or at least “lifelong learning”, it doesn’t really create an excitement for people. More often, they would turn their noses up at the word and would proceed to expound and relay all the hardships they had at school or all the lessons that they had that they weren’t able to use. Some would even agree that they don’t remember what they have learned at all. It’s not uncommon and even a natural response for many adults, but have you ever wondered why these are the common responses?

Most knowledge learned in schools are for exams. Students spend hours upon hours studying them only to forget and chuck them in the trash bin the moment they hand over their exam sheets. This isn’t learning at all. The question stands that if learning isn’t retained, are the students learning at all? Commonly, people see students’ heads as empty vessels that teachers have to pour “knowledge” into. But this is definitely not true. Even before students start school, they already have their own way of thinking and ways of interpreting new knowledge.

Spoon-feeding has been a problem that’s been highlighted for many years research after research. While there are some subjects that benefit from memorization, repetition and memorization do the students little to no favor.

What is spoon-feeding?

As the term implies, this comes from a child or a baby being spoon-fed by their parents because they still don’t know how to use eating utensils or feed themselves. Essentially, in learning, this also means treating the student like a baby – one that is a blank canvass that tutors or teachers have to fill in with their knowledge. This process “tells” the student what they need to know and is more teacher-centered.

Harmful effects on learning

Spoon-feeding is generally a “no-no” in education, however, it’s still one of the most dominant educational paradigms and still prevalent today. It also goes to say that some tutors still rely on this kind of teaching method as it also relates to the traditional and standardized type of testing. However, when tutors begin to ask themselves, “Is my student actually learning?” then they’ll realize that spoon-feeding isn’t the way to go. Here are some of the negative effects of spoon-feeding for students and why tutors should avoid them.

1. No development of critical thinking skills

Here’s a scenario. A tutor just finished opening up a topic to a student and then asks for the student’s input about the given topic. The student may think, “Why is my tutor doing this? Shouldn’t they know better since they are the ones with knowledge?”

Unfortunately, active learning doesn’t work that way. Of course, the tutor would know better than the student, they have already gone through the topic and could even be an expert on it already. However, in learning, the student shouldn’t just be receiving information. After the information has been relayed by the tutor and the student has received it, the student can then interpret and give their ideas of how they perceived this information.

Critical thinking will not be developed when students are simply digesting the information without understanding it. Learning isn’t just about being knowledgeable. It is useless when the student doesn’t develop the proper skills to use them or apply them. For example, a student knows the procedure of solving a math question and they follow when their tutor does it, but when it comes for them to solve the problem on their own or apply the procedure they learned, they can’t do it. This means they are just absorbing what they are told to do rather than knowing how to do it.

The student will not develop if they are constantly just given the knowledge they are supposed to have. This can lead to them hitting a plateau in education, with no possible option of progress as their development remains stagnant with what is given to them. They wouldn’t be compelled to ask questions or clarifications. And thus, they wouldn’t develop skills they could use to interpret their knowledge in ways that are useful for them.

2. Loss of interest in learning

As we’ve mentioned before, when talking about learning, it’s common to share their negative experiences with it or say that it isn’t for them. This may be the case for students that are spoon-fed. This leads to them not retaining any of the knowledge “fed” to them and thus, not being able to apply them either.

When students are just given everything they know, they wouldn’t be motivated to find other means to widen their knowledge. For example, a tutor will tell a student to read a book as it will have all the answers for the exam so the student will have to memorize the book word for word, without actually understanding what it says. Do you think the student will be able to answer situational questions based on the book if they haven’t actually understood the meaning of the book? Furthermore, they wouldn’t have to look for supplemental guides as they are told the book is all they need. What of the updated version of the facts in the book?

When people say learning is a lifelong process, they mean just that. By spoon-feeding students, they are taught that whatever is given to them is the ultimate truth when there will always be advancement and development in what was believed to be true years ago that isn’t true now.

Students should be taught without the teacher constantly holding their hands. If they start to learn for themselves and not because they are told to, they will have more confidence in their learning and can enjoy the learning process as well. They can become independent lifelong learners who actually find joy in the learning process.

3. Students lack in effort

When students are learning through repetition and memorization, they could only work hard through constantly doing just that with no clarifications or questions about the concept. When students aren’t encouraged to think for themselves, they wouldn’t have the sense of independence in learning, thus developing a feeling of “learned helplessness” that makes them reliant on spoon-feeding.

Because spoon-feeding is more teacher-centered, the educator puts in more effort in the learning process rather than the student and this can still result in poor outcomes. When students are spoon-fed, they wait for knowledge to happen. But when they feel they have not learned something they blame the teacher for not teaching them. The teacher then blames the student for not learning or listening. The cycle is painful and goes on and on. This is why there are many people who still claim they also haven’t learned anything in school.

The students who are used to spoon-feeding are also less responsible for their learning process. They can often misplace their workbooks, answer sheets, forget their homework, get easily distracted, etc.

Being used to spoon-feeding can also cause damage to the students when they reach higher education levels. They may get good scores from their younger years but when they are pushed into an environment that encourages independent learning, they may take time to adjust and may even suffer then.

It should also be considered that tutors who aren’t spoon-feeding or lessening the spoon-feeding they do to students are still teaching their students. There are some who would argue that they aren’t doing their job, when in fact, teaching students to develop their skills and learning process is more important than just giving them knowledge. It’s also important to teach students how to learn.

4. Low performance outside of school

When the student is used to being spoon-fed, they will become reliant. This can become an issue when they graduate school and enter life outside of school. Unlike schools, they will be expected to think independently. They are supposed to think for themselves and complete tasks on their own. They wouldn’t have someone like a tutor or a teacher who will tell them what to do or what to answer at every turn.

The chances of them succeeding if they are unable to cope with the new environment can drop. They can have great scores in school but if they are unable to apply their knowledge in the adult world, they can still face some challenges.

Conclusion

An educator should act as the facilitator of learning, they should be there to guide the student to pave their own path in learning. They should encourage their students to take responsibility for their own learning and develop confidence in themselves. All students are capable of learning but teaching them to be independent learners also has to be learned. Students can be like sponges that soak up everything that is given to them, but under pressure, everything they’ve absorbed can also be gone or forgotten.

If you are looking for a place where students can receive 1-to-1 tuition that will teach them how to learn and encourage the growth of their abilities and skills, check out FamilyTutor, the best home tuition agency in Singapore. We offer over 200 subjects to students from pre-school to even beyond university level. Here in FamilyTutor, your sons and daughters are in good hands.

Carelle

Carelle

Carelle is a teacher who has been through the ups and downs of the teacher and learner life. She wishes for every learner to gain educational satisfaction that will help embody the people they want to be in the future.

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