Punitive Pedagogy

What is writing? Pedagogically, it is output, a physical expression of analysis and creativity in word.

What is creativity? Pedagogically, this depends on how creative the teacher is to whom you pose this question. It also depends upon who asks them, their level of educational integrity, self-awareness, and etc and etc. If you ask me, and too bad if you haven’t, creativity is unplanned.

Most educational institutions establish a curriculum and syllabus which ticks all the boxes and looks rather natty on paper. My current university has taken the progressive step of hiring some of their A++ students and also successful practitioners from somewhere in the creative industry.

These astonishing folk are then plonked in front a group of students.

The trouble with pre-set educational goals is not the assumption that it will all work out as if memorising equations is equable with developing creative output skills, but the system for providing feedback.

Assuming that these A-grade students and successful practitioners can provide feedback on a creative work written some months previously, assuming that burgeoning creative writers will be receptive to that feedback and then be able to incorporate it, assuming that uni employees will be in a good frame of mind and professional in their feedback, are all wild assumptions.

After the semester of labouring through hours of spoonfeeding every week, of navigating Australia’s passive-aggressive neoliberal society, after repeatedly being targeted or alternatively ignored by teaching staff, after the hours a day of study and review, receiving a short critical summary of a work written and since forgotten is all a bit like punishment.

Writing is an inherently creative act. Teachers who have not been familiarised with pedagogical theory, much less the basic skill of Teach Talk Time, can, at best, hope for the random student who is already gifted at self-study.

An astonishingly inefficient approach to education.

What other subjects require skills development rather than the mere memorisation and retention of salient rules? Do mathematics and physics require no skill in application? How could educational staff find out which students possess what skills, and which of those skills could be relevant to the goal of the course?

Finding ways to encourage output rather than delayed punishment may yield enhanced learning outcomes for students and improved job satisfaction for university employees.


Teach Talk Time is a very basic pedagogical skill where the teacher monitors how much they speak in a given period of class time. Most basically, we can time how much we speak for the whole class. If we speak more than 70% of the time, we have utterly failed to allow students to find their voice.

More technically, talk time naturally starts about 90% and quickly falls to 40% by the middle of the class time, and the class should end with about 5% talk time. This gradual reduction allows for class set-up and explanation leading naturally into students interacting, demonstrating, and confirming their creative output.

An advanced application of TTT is the teacher supplanting that initial 90% with student-directed goals, student demonstrations, and adjustments to student-presented needs. The degree of finesse and flexibility necessitates the teacher becoming a tool, platform or vehicle by which students self-actualise. The teacher must be familiar with prior learning, assume students are adults and self-responsible, and possess no defensiveness.

TTT naturally allows for continuous student output and for continuous feedback. TTT leads to constant knowledge and skills acquisition. TTT is an amazingly simple and powerful pedagogical tool.