In her new book: 'The Republic of Noise- The Loss of Solitude in Schools and Culture,' Diana Senechal explores current US educational culture, concluding that today's teaching innovations, specifically the preoccupation with cooperative learning and group work, are to blame for children's lack of reflective learning and thoughtful study.
In a call for the return of solitude in study, she maintains silence is essential for, "literature, education, democracy, relationships, and matters of conscience."
Discussing her new book with the Guardian, Senechal believes in the US, "conversation tends to get very loud around certain subjects" primarily, "co-operative learning and group work." She goes on to note, that little discussion has ever centered around the disadvantages of these techniques.
While today's methodology focuses on the idea of a teacher being, “guide on the side rather than a sage on the stage” she notes, in the past, "teachers weren't doing all the talking, they were having a conversation with their class and asking questions that took them deeper."
Senechal maintains, excessive group work impacts negatively on students, "to make group work successful teachers have to give pupils a very specific activity to complete, otherwise things get too chaotic, and outlying ideas get shut off." By placing too too much emphasis on group work and fragmented activity, she insists teachers are, "ignoring more thoughtful study of complex subjects." Often, in these situations, "one group member tends to take control and the thoughts of those who are quieter or don’t fit in socially are disregarded."
Senechal also blames today's focus on exam results which she believes, "leaves little time for taking risks or delving outside of the exam context for 'deeper' understanding of the subject."
However, she is quick to note that she is not calling for the implementation of a particular teaching style, "I would hate for my style of teaching to become a model, I think it would be disastrous – I’m very wary of a “solitude movement”. Although she hopes it will encourage schools to consider making 'solitude' more available in the classroom, in an attempt to make them more "lively intellectual places."