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The Cultural Myths and Realities of Classroom Teaching and Learning: A Personal Journey


by Graham Nuthall — 2005

In this article, I argue that classroom teaching is structured by ritualized routines supported by widely held myths about learning and ability that are acquired through our common experiences as students. These ritualized routines and supporting myths are sustained not only by everyone's common experience of schooling, but by teacher education practices, the ways we evaluate teachers' classroom performance, and many common types of educational research. My own research on teaching over the last 45 years has produced a number of apparently contradictory and puzzling findings that have progressively led me to understand the nature and power of these routines and myths. While ritualized routines are necessary to allow a teacher to manage the experiences of 2030 students simultaneously, they also explain why individual student experience and learning remain largely invisible to teachers. The problem is to find ways to stand outside the ritualized routines and myths to identify how they control what we perceive, believe, and do about reforming teaching and learning.


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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 107 Number 5, 2005, p. 895-934
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 11844, Date Accessed: 7/31/2014 3:36:10 PM

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About the Author
  • Graham Nuthall
    University of Canterbury
    GRAHAM NUTHALL was Professor Emeritus in Education at the University of Canterbury. He completed a doctorate at the University of Illinois and was involved in research on teaching and learning in classrooms in the United States and New Zealand for more than 45 years. Recent reports of this research can be found in “Learning How to Learn: The Evolution of Students’ Minds through the Social Processes and Culture of the Classroom” (International Journal of Educational Research, 1999) and “The Anatomy of Memory in the Classroom: Understanding How Students Acquire Memory Processes from Classroom Activities in Science and Social Studies Units” (American Educational Research Journal, 2000). Professor Nuthall passed away in July 2004.
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