A calling ...

"We are called to be architects of the future, not its victims."

"Make the world work for 100% of humanity in the shortest possible time through spontaneous cooperation without ecological offense or the disadvantage of anyone."

- Buckminster Fuller

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Here's a link to an article about assessment that makes sense


While I don't agree that educational choice is necessarily a bad thing, I do think that politicians tend to oversimplify what it takes to educate our children.  We have way too many academic standards that aren't developmentally appropriate.  Our academic standards aren't focused enough on core competencies in reading, writing, and math.  Core understandings are not addressed deeply enough, so we end up force feeding a jumble of unrelated facts that children don't care about in a mad rush to keep up with pacing guides.  Educators nod their heads to the ideas of Constructivists such as Jerome Bruner, Vgotsky's Zone of Proximal Development theory, and Bloom's Taxonomy, but in our mad rush to keep up with our pacing guides, we too often throw reflection out the window.  We need to apply the Pareto principle to the issue of academic standards:  20% of our standards provide 80% of the value.

Because there is too much content to teach (possibly 80% of which of questionable importance), teachers are forced to talk way too much.  Teachers become like Charlie Brown's teachers:  "Wha, Wha, Wha..."  Students need to build a repertoire of thinking skills, they need to learn how and when to apply appropriate strategies, and that can't happen if the teacher is doing all the talking.  Students need time to work with models, connect models to concepts, and connect concepts to language.  Not enough time is devoted up front to developing concepts, and there are serious consequences to this harried, data-driven, fear-motivated approach.  Ironically, by oversimplifying the nature of education, we've ended up over-complicating it.

I've been continuing to dissect John A. Van De Walle's masterpiece on teaching mathematics, responding to the discussion questions at the end of each chapter, and have been applying his ideas in the classroom.  The reading is slow going, since my goal is mastery.  Last Friday, while working in small groups with students with learning disabilities on a procedure for relating decimals to money, it helped that I emphasized the whole-to-part relationship, and the meaning of the decimal point.  By focusing on the concept and allowing children time to connect the procedure to the model, I enabled most of these children to experience significant growth in a very short time.  Thanks to Van De Walle's instructional model, I was able to teach in a highly efficient manner, and the children felt great about their learning.