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Science / Fiction — Carol Black
"‘Evidence-based’ education, scientific racism, & how learning styles became a myth."



"1. The Debunkers
2. The Map and the Territory
3. The Evidence
4. The Territory Beyond the Map
5. Here Be Dragons"



"A disturbing feature of this discourse in education is the frequency with which it takes the form of male researchers and pundits telling female educators that their views on learning are cognitively childish and irrational and should therefore be disregarded. Cognitive psychologist Daniel Willingham, a prominent debunker, has shared some rather patronizing speculations as to why the vast majority of (mostly female) teachers persist in thinking their students have different learning styles ("I think learning styles theory is widely accepted because the idea is so appealing. It would be so nice if it were true.") His paternal tone is especially disturbing since he makes his case by failing to mention the existence of legitimate competing views from respected scientists and education researchers."



"But despite the debunkers' undeniable passion on the topic, the fact is that there are extremely reputable scientists on both sides of this debate. In other words, as Grundmann and Stehr put it, "the basic rift in these debates is not between lay people and experts but between two alliances that advocate different courses of action based on divergent basic values and knowledge claims... we see representatives of science and the lay public on both sides."

So what are the two alliances in the case of learning styles? And what are their divergent basic values?

Luckily, you don't have to dig very deep to find out. If you review the writings of the most vocal learning styles 'debunkers,' you quickly find that they are almost always simply advocates for traditional, teacher-controlled direct instruction. They tend to favor a traditional "core knowledge" curriculum, traditional forms of discipline, and they adhere to a traditional IQ-based view of intelligence. In other words, they’re just educational conservatives. (In the UK they openly call themselves "trads" as opposed to "progs.") They trumpet any research that supports their preferences and ignore or attempt to discredit any research that leans the other way. They don't like progressive or self-directed or culturally relevant approaches to education. They don't tend to concern themselves overmuch with less tangible aspects of children's well-being like, say, "happiness" or "creativity" or "mental health." They define "what works" in education in terms of test scores.

But the reality is that you can’t say ‘what works” in education until you answer the question: works for what? As Yong Zhao explains in “What Works May Hurt: Side Effects in Education,” it’s reasonable to assume, in education as in medicine, that any given intervention may have negative as well as positive effects; if we want to claim to be evidence-based, we need to look at both. What raises test scores may lower creativity or intrinsic motivation, and vice versa; this study, for example, found that direct instruction hastened young children's mastery of a specific task, but lowered exploratory behavior. So “what the research supports” depends on what you value, what you care most about, what kind of life you want for your children."



"The first thing to understand about learning styles is that there is no agreed-on definition of the term. Multiple frameworks have been proposed, from the popular Visual-Auditory-Kinesthetic framework, to the Concrete-Abstract framework, to the Holistic-Analytical, Impulsive-Reflective, Convergent-Divergent, Field-Dependent-Field-Independent, Cognitive-Affective-Physiological –– one literature review identified 71 different models. As Kirschner and van Merriënboer grouse, if we consider each learning style as dichotomous (e.g. visual vs. verbal) that means there are 2 to the power of 71 possible combinations of learning styles – more than the number of people alive on earth.

They say that like it’s a bad thing. But as astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson remarked recently, “In science, when human behavior enters the equation, things go nonlinear. That's why physics is easy and sociology is hard.”

Zhang and her frequent collaborators Robert Sternberg and Stephen Rayner, co-editors of The Handbook of Intellectual Styles, are not fans of the 'debunkers.' They use the term intellectual style as an "umbrella term for all style constructs," (including learning styles, cognitive styles, perceptual styles, and thinking styles) which relate to "people's preferred ways of processing information and dealing with tasks." (Notice the word "preferred" here, since that will come up later.) As these authors see it, intellectual style differences are complex, involving cognitive, affective, physiological, psychological, and sociological dimensions. Researchers Maria Kozhevnikov, Carol Evans, and Stephen Kosslyn use the term cognitive style (which includes learning style constructs), to describe "patterns of adaptation to the external world that develop through interaction with the surrounding environment on the basis of innate predispositions, the interactions among which are shaped by changing environmental demands."

The most promising style constructs, in Kozhevnikov's view, are not the narrow visual-auditory-kinesthetic (V-A-K) perceptual categories, but the richer constructs of "context-dependency vs. independency, rule-based vs. intuitive processing, internal vs. external locus of control, and integration vs. compartmentalization." These cognitive tendencies are neither set in stone nor completely malleable; they intersect with cognition at multiple levels, from perception to concept formation to higher-order cognitive processing to meta-cognitive processing.

So it's complicated. And yet despite what researchers Elena Grigorenko and Samuel Mandelman call "the very fine texture" of the "intertwined threads of intelligence and personality" that make learning styles so devilishly hard to define, in practice these differences are not at all difficult to see.

Which is probably why somewhere between 75 and 90% of teachers believe they exist.

In self-directed learning situations where children are able to follow their curiosity in their own ways, differences that might be muted or masked in a controlled instruction setting become very clearly visible. Sensory preferences intersect with social, emotional, and cognitive differences in complex and individual ways that profoundly shape how each child enters and explores and takes hold of the world. One child will spend quiet hours poring over illustrated books about science or history; another child is quickly bored by those, but gets deeply engaged in active social projects like building or filmmaking or citizen science. One child listens in on adult conversations and remembers everything she hears, absorbing knowledge like a sponge; another child creates and constructs knowledge in her own hands-on ways, writing her first book before she reads one. One child is observant and cautious, always making sure of things before venturing into unfamiliar terrain; another child is bold and intuitive, diving in head first and filling in the gaps later in a "fake it till you make it" spirit. The river moves steadily toward the sea, but it follows many divergent pathways, and the shortest distance between two points may not be a straight line.

In other words, human learning differences are complex, multi-dimensional, and difficult to definitively pin down, but this much is clear: the kids have different styles of learning. So how does something so intuitively obvious and readily observed cease to exist in the eyes of the debunkers?"



"The debunkers admit that people have fairly stable learning preferences. They also admit that people have variable abilities in visual v. auditory memory, etc. When you combine preference with ability –– e.g. "I have a good visual memory, and I prefer information presented visually" –– that’s probably what many speakers of the English language understand by the term “learning style.”

So that thing? That exists.

But here’s where the crucial elision occurs, and the claim shifts to the matching hypothesis. In a literature review of learning styles research, Pashler et al. state it this way: the theory of learning styles is only confirmed if we can successfully sort individuals into groups “for which genuine group-by-treatment interactions can be demonstrated.”

What are “group-by-treatment” interactions? Well, in this scenario the teacher diagnoses and sorts the learners into groups, applies a randomized instructional “treatment” to each group, and then administers a test to determine which “treatment” worked better –– like a drug trial.

It's important to note that the debunkers' claim is thus based almost entirely on studies of teacher-controlled direct instruction; they don't involve scenarios where learners have agency. But the problem with studying learning in teacher-controlled settings is that it may be unclear whether you're measuring something about the learning or something about the teaching. In other words, you have to be sure that "Treatment A" isn't just a better or more interesting lesson than "Treatment B."

How can you solve that problem? Simple. By excluding from the list of methodologically acceptable studies anything that involves the kind of creative activities that good teachers might come up with to address the needs of diverse learners.

From the standpoint of strict scientific method, this is, of course, correct; your experimental protocol should control every variable except the one you're testing. How can you achieve this? By further simplification, of course: by creating a lesson so lacking in complexity that it can’t possibly be interesting to anyone. Like memorizing a random list of words.

Here’s where you run … [more]
carolblack  learningstyles  evidence  2018  paulkirschner  jeroenvanmerriënboer  li-fangzhang  mariakozhevnikov  carolevans  elenagrigorenko  stephenkosslyn  robertsternberg  learning  education  data  danielwillingham  daviddidau  joanneyatvin  power  yongzhao  research  unschooling  deschooling  directinstruction  children  happiness  creativity  well-being  iq  intelligence  traditional  testing  intrinsicmotivation  mastery  behavior  howwelearn  self-directed  self-directedlearning  ignorance  franksmith  race  racism  oppression  intersectionality  coreknowledge  schooling  schooliness  homeschool  multiliteracies  differences  hierarchy  participation  participatory  democracy  leannebetasamosakesimpson  andrealandry  pedagogy  teaching  howweteach  colonization  leisterman  ibramkendi  standardizedtesting  standardization  onesizefitsall  cornelpewewardy  cedarriener  yanaweinstein 
june 2018 by robertogreco
The Education Debates — davidcayley.com
"Sometime in the 1990's I received a long letter from a teacher named Alex Lawson, asking me to consider doing an Ideas series on the state of education. The letter impressed me by its sincerity, and by the sense of urgency its author clearly felt, but I found the idea somewhat daunting. The subject inspires such endless controversy, and such passion, that I could immediately picture the brickbats flying by my ears. I also worried that my views were too remote from the mainstream to allow me to treat the subject fairly. My three younger children, to that point, had not attended school, and my reading and inclination had made me more interested in de-schooling than in the issues then vexing the school and university systems, which I tended to see as artefacts of obsolete structures. Nevertheless Alex and I kept in touch, and I gradually became able to pictures the pathways such a series might open up. Thinking of it as a set of "debates" or discussions, without getting too stuck on a tediously pro and con dialectical structure, allowed me to reach out very widely and include the heretics with the believers. The series was broadcast, in fifteen parts, 1998 and 1999. I re-listened to it recently, and I think it holds me pretty well. There are a few anachronisms, but my dominant impression was plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. Alex Lawson, whose ardour and persistence inspired the whole thing, appears in the third programme of the set. De-schooling gets its day in programmes seven through nine.

This series Inspired a letter I have never forgotten, from a retired military man in rural New Brunswick, who wrote to me afterwards that I had "performed a noble service for our country." I was touched, not only that he saw nobility in what I had done, but that he could see that I had attempted to open up the question of education and provide a curiculum for its study rather than trying to foreclose or settle it.

The series had a large cast of characters whom I have listed below.

Part One, The Demand for Reform: Sarah Martin, Maureen Somers, Jack Granatstein, Andrew Nikiforuk, Heather Jane Robertson
[embedded in this post]

Part Two, A New Curriculum: E.D. Hirsch, Neil Postman
[http://www.davidcayley.com/podcasts/2016/11/12/the-education-debates-part-two ]

Part Three, Don’t Shoot the Teacher: Alex Lawson, Daniel Ferri, Andy Hargreaves
[http://www.davidcayley.com/podcasts/2016/11/12/the-education-debates-part-three ]

Part Four, School Reform in the U.S.: Deborah Meier, Ted Sizer
[http://www.davidcayley.com/podcasts/2016/11/12/the-education-debates-part-four ]

Part Five, Reading in an Electronic Age, Carl Bereiter, Deborrah Howes, Frank Smith, David Solway
[http://www.davidcayley.com/podcasts/2016/11/12/the-education-debates-part-five ]

Part Six, Schooling and Technology: Bob Davis, Marita Moll, Carl Bereiter
[http://www.davidcayley.com/podcasts/2016/11/12/the-education-debates-part-six ]

Part Seven, Deschooling Society: Paul Goodman, Ivan Illich, John Holt
[http://www.davidcayley.com/podcasts/2016/11/12/the-education-debates-part-seven ]

Part Eight, Deschooling Today: John Holt, Susannah Sheffer, Chris Mercogliano
[http://www.davidcayley.com/podcasts/2016/11/12/the-education-debates-part-eight ]

Part Nine, Dumbing Us Down: Frank Smith, John Taylor Gatto
[http://www.davidcayley.com/podcasts/2016/11/12/the-education-debates-part-nine ]

Part Ten, Virtues or Values: Edward Andrew, Peter Emberley, Iain Benson
[http://www.davidcayley.com/podcasts/2016/11/12/the-education-debates-part-ten ]

Part Eleven, Common Culture, Multi-Culture: Charles Taylor, Bernie Farber, Bob Davis
[http://www.davidcayley.com/podcasts/2016/11/12/the-education-debates-part-eleven ]

Part Twelve, The Case for School Choice: Mark Holmes, Adrian Guldemond, Joe Nathan, Andy Hargreaves, Heather Jane Robertson
[http://www.davidcayley.com/podcasts/2016/11/12/the-education-debates-part-twelve ]

Part Thirteen, Trials of the University: Jack Granatstein, Paul Axelrod, Michael Higgins, Peter Emberley
[http://www.davidcayley.com/podcasts/2016/11/12/the-education-debates-part-thirteen ]

Part Fourteen, On Liberal Studies: Clifford Orwin, Leah Bradshaw, Peter Emberley
[http://www.davidcayley.com/podcasts/2016/11/2/the-education-debates-part-fourteen ]

Part Fifteen, Teaching the Conflicts: Martha Nussbaum, Gerald Graff"
[http://www.davidcayley.com/podcasts/2016/11/2/the-education-debates-part-fifteen ]

[find them here too: http://www.davidcayley.com/podcasts/?category=Education+Debates ]
education  learning  schooling  schools  paulgoodman  ivanillich  johnholt  johntaylorgatto  marthanussbaum  geraldgraff  peteremberley  cliffordorwin  dvidcayley  teaching  howwelearn  unschooling  deschooling  compulsory  tedsizer  deborahmeier  edhirsch  alexlawson  danielferri  ndyhargreaves  davidsolway  franksmith  deborrahhowes  carlbereiter  bobdavis  maritamoll  institutions  institutionalization  radicalism  susannahsheffer  chrismercogliano  edwardandrew  iainbenson  berniefarber  charlestaylor  markholmes  adrianguldemond  joenathan  andyhargreaves  heatherjanerobertson  highered  highereducation  leahbradshaw  sarahmartin  maureensomers  jackgranatstein  andrewnikiforuk  technology  edtech 
may 2017 by robertogreco
9 Elephants in the (Class)Room That Should “Unsettle” Us - Will Richardson
1. We know that most of our students will forget most of the content that they “learn” in school.



2. We know that most of our students are bored and disengaged in school.



3. We know that deep, lasting learning requires conditions that schools and classrooms simply were not built for.



4. We know that we’re not assessing many of the things that really matter for future success.



5. We know that grades, not learning, are the outcomes that students and parents are most interested in.



6. We know that curriculum is just a guess. The way we talk about “The Curriculum” you would think that it was something delivered on a gold platter from on high. In reality, it was pretty much written by 10 middle-aged white guys (and their primarily white, middle-aged friends) in 1894 called “The Committee of Ten.” They were from some of the most prestigious schools and universities at the time, and they fashioned the structure of much of what we still teach in schools today. But we know that much of what every student in 1894 was supposed to learn isn’t really what every student in 2015 needs to learn. Yet we seem loathe to mess with the recipe. And as Seymour Papert so famously asks, now that we have access to pretty much all there is to know, “what one-billionth of one percent” are we going to choose to teach in school?

7. We know that separating learning into discrete subjects and time blocks is not the best way to prepare kids for the real world.



8. We know (I think) that the system of education as currently constructed is not adequately preparing kids for what follows if and when they graduate.



9. And finally, we know that learning that sticks is usually learned informally, that explicit knowledge accounts for very little of our success in most professions."
willrichardson  2015  education  schools  curriculum  engagement  2016  memory  content  boredom  schooling  schooliness  deschooling  unschooling  mitchresnick  seymourpapert  emilymitchum  grades  grading  parenting  lcproject  openstudioproject  committeeoften  matthewlieberman  franksmith  learning  forgetting  howwelearn  howweteach  teaching  pedagogy  hardfun  sfsh 
april 2016 by robertogreco
Will · The Lazy Language of Learning
"Those of you who have been around these parts before know that one of my biggest frustrations is the imprecise ways that we talk about learning, as if everyone defines it the exact way and it therefore requires no context or is without nuance. On almost every occasion that I find myself talking to teachers or leaders about their work, I find myself asking clarifying questions, sometimes to the great frustration of the people I’m with. I do it not to be a foil but to be clear: “What do you believe about learning?” I just think that’s crucial.

I’ve reference Seymour Sarason’s age old question (and book) “And what do YOU mean by learning?” more times than I can count. And most recently, I’ve been bringing Frank Smith’s “classic” vs. “official” theories of learning into my work even more. (Short version: “classic” is what we all know about learning, “official” is the school sanctioned version that looks little like what we know. Here’s a graphic. Read his book, too.) Both require us to say what we believe about what learning is, what makes it happen, and how we foster it in the classroom. Too often, that fundamental piece is missing from the process and the conversation. Or, we’re not sure whether it’s there or not.

I think Gary Stager gets it right:
In the absence of a clear and publicly articulated vision for a school or district and a misguided quest for the holy grail of balance, the weeds will always kill the flowers. If you are a school leader with a coherent vision for educational progress, you must articulate your vision clearly and publicly so people will follow. Why make others guess what you want and stand for?

Case in point, Future Ready Schools. Now first, let me be clear, I have no opinion on the work that FRS is doing. And the reason I have no opinion is that despite spending a good deal of time on their site, and despite engaging in a protracted Twitter Q&A yesterday with some of the folks who are involved in leading the effort, I still have no idea what they mean by “learning.” They use the word often, but they are not clear as to what their version of learning is. And there are many versions to be parsed.

Briefly, here’s what I wonder as I read the site:

1. What are “digital learning opportunities” exactly in the following sentence, and what are the measures of success:
“Future Ready is a free, bold new effort to maximize digital learning opportunities and help school districts move quickly toward preparing students for success in college, a career, and citizenship.”

2. What are the “personalized learning experiences” that participating schools are supposed to lead?

3. How does FRS define an “engaged” student?

4. What are the “student learning outcomes” that FRS wants to help schools measure?

5. What are the “issues that drive student learning?”

6. The site says “Technology now enables personalized digital learning for every student in the nation.” What do they mean by “personalized digital learning?”

7. Etc.

To be fair, FRS does attempt a definition of “student learning,” but they break the cardinal rule that you shouldn’t define the word with the word itself:
Digital learning is defined as “the strengthening, broadening, and/or deepening of students’ learning through the effective use of technology.” Digital learning can serve as a vehicle to individualize and personalize learning, ensuring that all students reach their full potential to succeed in college and a career.

The elements that comprise this Gear include:
Personalized Learning
Student-Centered Learning
Authentic, Deeper Learning
21st Century Skills
College and Career Readiness
Digital Citizenship
Technology Skills
Anywhere, Anytime Learning

I struggle with so much of that because they leave the fundamental questions unanswered. Are students learning our stuff (curriculum) or their stuff (interests)? Are we more concerned with them becoming learners or learned? Are teachers organizing the school experience or are students building it? Do the technologies we give to kids transfer agency and increase freedom on the part of the student learner or do they just transfer our curriculum in digital form? And, importantly, what does success look like, and how is it measured?

These are harder questions. These are not about doing things “better” but about looking at schools and classrooms and teachers fundamentally differently. And these are important to ask and answer before we embark on any initiative that purports to “improve student learning.”"
2015  willrichardson  education  learning  futurereadyschools  futureready  buzzwords  hype  seymoursarason  garystager  vision  schools  progressive  technology  emptiness  edtech  why  thewhy  franksmith  purpose  process  conversation 
june 2015 by robertogreco
Will · The Corruption of Learning
"Frank Smith in The Book of Learning and Forgetting:
The widespread propagation of the “official theory of learning” [that learning is hard work] is not so much a conspiracy as a massive manifestation of self-interest by special-interest groups outside schools. The belief has been fostered by academic psychology, uncritically adopted in education, and vigorously promoted by people who would like to control what students and teachers do in schools—often to make a profit in the bargain. The idea has been around long enough—just more than 100 years—to have become widely accepted as common sense, natural, the way things have to be. And the official theory is wrong. It creates frustration and wasted effort in our personal lives and futility and discrimination in schools. It is a crippling belief that fosters some of the worst social attitudes that afflict our society.

I’ve spent a lot of time lately reflecting on my own learning, thinking about what I’ve learned, what I’ve forgotten, and why. It’s reflecting that I wish I had been doing 30 years ago when I first came to teaching, and on one level I’m ashamed that it’s taken me so long to understand the natural dissonance between traditional schooling and learning. It’s not that I didn’t know it in my gut…I am, after all, a product of school…it’s that I let the narrative of school learning dominate my own experience and practice. And in my last few workshops as I’ve prodded people about their own experiences as learners, I’ve come to realize that most others in education feel the same disconnect but feel powerless to act to change it in their classrooms.

All of which resonates with a great Seymour Papert quote from The Children’s Machine:
“When it comes to thinking about learning, nearly all of us have a School side of the brain, which thinks that school is the only natural way to learn, and a personal side that knows perfectly well that it’s not.”

The unfortunate reality is that natural learning, what Smith calls the “classic theory of learning” that suggests, rightly, that “we learn effortlessly, every waking moment of our lives” has been rendered irrelevant by the dominant narrative that learning is onerous and requires sustained, conscious effort. (It certainly does if you don’t care about what you are being asked to learn.) And it is about control, as I recently was reminded by an experience with my own kids. Without going into detail, one of my darlings made a poor yet basically harmless decision which met with harsh consequences from the school. But, as is often the case, my child learned more from the actions of the punisher than she did from the punishment. Effortlessly, I might add.

The biggest challenge facing schools is that the modern world amplifies our ability to learn in the classic sense, and increasingly renders the official, school based theory of learning pointless and oppressive. While our kids’ love of learning can flourish outside of school, it’s extinguished inside of school as we take away agency, passion, connection, audience, authenticity, and more.

How long can that stand?"
willrichardson  1998  2015  franksmith  learning  schools  education  seymourpapert  howelearn  howweteach  academicpsychology  psychology  schooliness  deschooling  unschooling 
february 2015 by robertogreco
"Let's declare education a disaster and get on with our lives," by Frank Smith Phi Delta Kappan, Vol. 76, 1995
"I have a serious suggestion to make. We should stop worrying about the problems of education, declare it a disaster, and let teachers and students get on with their lives. The trouble with the endless concern over "problems" in education is that many well-meaning but often misguided and sometimes meddlesome people believe that solutions must exist. They waste their own and other people's time and energy trying to find and implement these solutions. Typically, they try harder to do more of something that is already being done (although what is being done is probably one of the problems).
However, if education is a disaster, then it is not a collection of problems to be "solved," and trying to "improve" what we are already doing will only make the situation worse. You don't find solutions to disasters - you try to extricate yourself and other people from them. The way to survive a disaster is to do something different."



"We delude ourselves when we think of education (or the economy) as something coherent, logical, and rational that human beings have reflected upon and designed with a clear purpose in mind, like the internal combustion engine, a jet aircraft, or even the common teakettle." 



"Changing the Way We Think About Education

Many of our troubles in education arise from the fact that we are so concerned about learning. I would go so far as to suggest that all our talk about learning is counterproductive and that we should (if we could control language) stop using the word. I know it will be argued that learning is the entire purpose of education, but that doesn't mean that it should demand all our attention - or even most of it. Learning is an outcome, not a process, and if we focus only on the outcome, then we can easily get necessary preconditions all wrong.

Let me start with an analogy. We are concerned that children should grow physically, say an average of two inches a year over a particular period of their lives, and that their body temperature should stay close to a healthy 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. These are desirable outcomes, but in raising children we don't continually focus on the achievement of these states of affairs. We don't stretch or shrink children to ensure they are the right size, nor do we constantly warm or refrigerate them so that their temperature stays at the approved level. We are more concerned with clothing and nourishing them properly. Our concern should always be with those conditions in which growth is a natural and inevitable outcome."



"We must get away from the idea that everything would be fine with our educational institutions if only teachers and students worked harder. That is why we should no longer talk about schools in the language that has made them what they are today. Attempting to "improve" the current rituals of schools or to do them more assiduously will only make matters worse. Education is on the wrong track largely because of "solutions" that have socially isolated teachers and students from one another and from sensible ways of spending their time."



Learning is usually seen as an incremental activity. We are supposed to learn by adding bits of knowledge or information to the store we have already accumulated. Every new thing learned is another block added to the tower of what we know already, another item in the cognitive data bank. Occasionally, we talk about learning as "growth" or "development," but we are usually not referring to the way a tree or the human body grows. Natural growth is not additive. Babies do not grow by having successive inches added to their height. The increase in their height is simply an indicator that the entire organism has developed, not necessarily at the same rate OF in the same propound baby is not the equivalent of two 10-pound babies, one on top of the other. Nor does the larger infant have more limbs or more organs.

Learning, like physical growth, is not a consequence of external pressure; we don't even learn as a result of trying harder. All of us have experienced failure to learn something that we wanted to learn, despite intense motivation and effort. Yet other things we make no particular effort to memorize - like major news items, gossip, the scores in a sport in which we are interested, and even the antics of characters in television sitcoms - seem to become imprinted on our minds without effort.

The reason is the difference between learning and rote memorization, which boosters of testing and instructional planning totally overlook. Deliberate memorization - such as rehearsing facts until we take a test or holding a telephone number in our minds until we can dial it - requires conscious effort. The forced ingestion of facts and data is useless for educational purposes. It has a half-life of a few hours, at most a few days. After the examination we rarely remember much of what we tried to cram into our minds before it. What we remember from fruitless efforts to memorize are the stress and the failure inevitably involved.

Learning is also like physical growth in that it usually occurs without our being aware of it, it is long-lasting, and it requires a nurturing environment. It takes place as a result of social relationships (including relationships with the authors of books and with characters in books), and it pivots on personal identification. We learn from the kind of person we see ourselves as being like. Such conditions are annihilated by information-transmission teaching and constant tests.

Saving Ourselves and Our Students

I have a couple of suggestions about how teachers might begin to save themselves and their students from the overcontrolled, overmanaged, oversystematized, and overresearched disaster that is education. The first is to change the way we talk about schools, and the second is to change the way we behave in them.

We should change the way we talk about schools by talking less about learning and teaching and more about doing. When we focus on teaching specific skills, students frequently fail to learn them and rarely become enthusiastic about engaging in them voluntarily. When we concern ourselves with engaging students in interesting and comprehensible activities, then they learn. All of them may not learn at the same time, at the same rate, or even with the same enthusiasm. But such individual variation is inevitable, and we must recognize and accept it. Homogenization never works in education, nor should we want or expect it to."



"Instead of talking all the time about what teachers should teach and what students should learn, we should talk about what teachers and students should do. We should talk about experiences that they should be mutually engaged in - experiences involving reading, writing, imagining, creating, calculating, constructing, producing, and performing. Can't think of any? Sorry - but you must use your imagination (and that of your students), not rely on experts or authorities outside the classroom to tell you.
"



"Yes, but you're not giving us any specific suggestions about what teachers should do when they cast off from the ship.

That's because I don't have any specific suggestions, because I don't believe that anyone has the right to tell teachers what to do or that any teacher has the right to expect to be told. Decisions should be made in the lifeboats, not on the sinking liner or from the distant shore. Teachers should know when their students are doing (and learning) worthwhile things and when their students are doing (and learning) things that will be damaging to their personal and social development. (Teachers who don't know the difference shouldn't be in a classroom.) Teachers need support, and they need to share experience. But the way to achieve these ends is through collegiality, not through hierarchical structures. Teachers must save themselves, and they can best do that by observing and supporting one another.

The education system may not be amenable to change - but people are. Every meaningful situation in school that is interesting, comprehensible, and encouraging to everyone concerned is another lifeboat launched. This is something that all teachers should be able to recognize and accomplish; the world is full of teachers who are already doing so. And if teachers can't get their students on one lifeboat, they must be sure that they get aboard another. There must be enough lifeboats to provide a constant shuttle from the disaster of the education system to the sanctuary of teachers and students mutually engaged in sensible and productive activities, which are the sole justification for education."
franksmith  1995  education  restart  workingfromwithin  changefromwithin  change  unschooling  deschooling  reform  edreform  growth  learning  schools  teaching  howweteach  howwelearn 
october 2013 by robertogreco

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