SmileTutor Blog Tutors Tutoring Tips How Spoon-feeding is Harmful to Learning

How Spoon-feeding is Harmful to Learning

As more research is conducted to improve the quality of education in Asia, one problem is frequently highlighted: spoon-feeding. There are certain subjects like philosophy and literature that require the memorization of quotes. So, rote learning does come in handy for students at times. However, rote learning notes provided by the tutor does not do them any favors as Forster pointed out.

“Spoon feeding in the long run teaches us nothing but the shape of the spoon.”
-E. M. Forster

Spoon-feeding is basically treating your student like a baby; a blank mind that needs to filled with the teacher’s knowledge. The most important question every teacher must ask is: Is there more to learn? The answer is always yes. Therefore, spoon-feeding is never justified in any form.

In a 2009 paper, “Does Spoon-feeding Impede Independent Learning?”, the authors Samah, Jusoff and Silong presented a unique perspective on the spoon-feeding culture. They defined it as stealing an opportunity from your student to think or act on their own. This means that not only are you not offering anything of value by spoon-feeding but also depriving your students of something vital. They expressed concern over the digital learning resources encouraging this practice and hindering creative thinking. A solution was proposed by the authors, who were experienced educators, stressing on the need for students to bring individual input to these resources.

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Death of critical thinking

Why do you think the educators wanted the students’ input when they themselves were the teachers? One would assume that the trained instructors would know better than the inexperienced pupils. That may be the case but there are two stages to learning: relay and receive. The tutor relays the concept and the student receives it. The perception of the student maybe different from what the tutor intended. It is important for the teacher to know how the pupil perceived the concept. This is where critical thinking comes in.

The student will simply digest the information provided without understanding it in a spoon-feeding environment. Many parents, students and teachers regard the results of spoon-feeding as “regurgitation”. There no change in the content as it is reproduced word for word. This leads to stagnancy in education because no development is made as the student’s brain processes the data. No questions are asked because the tutor’s words are accepted as the ultimate truth.

Lack of effort by students

Parents send their children to school and urge them to work hard. In an institution run on the spoon-feeding formula, the students can only work hard on rote learning with no clarification of concepts. Dr Peter Ovens from the University of Cumbria studied the behavior of students for his research in 2011. He discovered that the first years at the university wanted to be taught like they were “trained in school”. He felt their confusion when faced with the idea of independent learning. He feared that the students were losing their autonomy when it came to education. His conclusion was they did not have the confidence to use their own knowledge.

As these students were never encouraged to think for themselves they found it very difficult to adapt to the university’s style. At higher education levels, problem solving skills are valued for research purposes. The spoon-feeding method may have gotten them good scores at school but they suffered as undergraduate students.

Value outside the classroom

The issue becomes even more serious once the student graduates and enters practical life. Once the internship or training period is over an employee is expected to be an independent thinker. They are supposed to get things done on their own for themselves and higher-ups. How a person who has been spoon-fed their whole life fares in their career? The chances of their success drop considerably if they have been unable to rectify their learning attitude in university life. This leads to poor performance in initial jobs, inadequate recommendations and slow progress. The qualifications based on education do not bring them much benefit. All this is due to the spoon-feeding culture that inhibits critical thinking in students. As a parent, you may broach this subject in a parent-teacher conference to gauge the situation your child is in. Then you will be able to take measures to steer your child in the right direction.

In her paper, “Reducing Spoon-feeding to Promote Independent Thinking”, Blane explains that parents demand the spoon-feeding method as it is the norm. She infers that they insist on it because they were taught the same way. Richard Andrews is an Australian educator who suggests that teachers undergo training to teach in a manner that explores critical thinking. Technology can be instrumental in making this transition to a better future filled with smart independent thinkers.

Rum Tan

Rum Tan is the founder of SmileTutor and he believes that every child deserves a smile. Motivated by this belief and passion, he works hard day & night with his team to maintain the most trustworthy source of home tutors in Singapore. In his free time, he writes articles hoping to educate, enlighten, and empower parents, students, and tutors. You may try out his free home tutoring services via or by calling 6266 4475 directly today.