Do not try this in class

June 4, 1999

Like so many educationists these days, Linda Evans and Ian Abbott ("The credibility gap", THES, May 28) tell us that lecturers should not be taught anything about teaching but should learn their trade "through active involvement, practical experience and critical reflection about the experience". They justify this approach by implying that this is the way that scientists learn their profession.

This may be the way that scientists make discoveries, but it is not how they learn to become scientists.

On the contrary, they have to spend many years learning relevant skills and what is already known and understood about their subject before they can begin professional activities. Learning from experience comes later.

Surely it cannot be right for trainee lecturers to ignore what is already known about teaching and simply to subject their long-suffering students to trial-and-error procedures so that they - the lecturers - can learn from their mistakes?

It would be disastrous if other budding professionals such as scientists, engineers, doctors, vets, lawyers or nurses were to behave so unprofessionally.

John Sparkes

Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire

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