Tag Archives: Marc Tucker

The Scottish Curriculum for Excellence

Marc Tucker notes:

The Scots decided that there was far too much testing and the curriculum was overly prescriptive, and insufficiently interdisciplinary.  The Scots believe that exams measure only a small part of what is most important in an education, and concluded that over-reliance on them had narrowed the curriculum unacceptably.  They wanted a curriculum that was very demanding but very flexible, full of pathways that would enable students from many different backgrounds to excel.

The result was the Curriculum for Excellence, first introduced in 2004, and not yet fully implemented.  Descriptions of the Curriculum emphasize the importance of the Four Capacities: Successful Learners, Confident Individuals, Responsible Citizens and Effective Contributors.  And they cite the Seven Principles of Curriculum Design: Challenge and Enjoyment, Breadth, Progression, Depth, Personalization and Choice, Coherence and Relevance.  Visitors to Scottish schools implementing the new curriculum are struck by the high student engagement they see, partly a function of the highly applied project- and problem-oriented work they see going on in and out of classrooms.

There is considerable emphasis on assessment, but the angle of vision on assessment is very different from that found in England.  Rather than tightening the screws on external assessment, as in England, the Scots focus on getting students to assess themselves against the standards, internalizing the standards.  They talk about helping students work in groups to develop peer assessment so that the groups and individuals in the group can pinpoint their weaknesses and get better.  Assessment is seen as being most useful to a student when it is keyed to their own individual learning plan. Summative assessments are referred to as profiles, a statement of achievements in a variety of formats that can be assembled as an e-Portfolio.  The mandatory exams for 16 year olds were abolished.

Realizing that goals like these could not be achieved by ratcheting up the rules and tightening the screws on schools and teachers, the Scots went in the opposite direction, trying to ensure faithful implementation of their policies by enlisting teachers in large numbers in the further development of the curriculum.  Rather than laying out a whole detailed plan as quickly as possible and then putting out a very aggressive implementation schedule, the Scots decided that they would implement their new policies gradually, over a period of many years, getting teachers involved in filling in the details of the plan themselves, in piloting the new ideas and then in modifying the plan iteratively in response to what teachers discovered as the implementation went forward.  Teachers, in other words, were to be not the recipients but the drivers of implementation.

via http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/07/22/england-vs-scotland-competing-school-reform-visions

We need to take bigger mental leaps as educators and policymakers


Marc Tucker, President and CEO of the National Center on Education and the Economy, had a blog post back in August titled Instructional Technology: Villain of the Piece – or Savior? In that post, he postulated five ways that technology could be used to improve student achievement:

  1. Use word processors to teach writing.
  2. Giving students access to the wealth of information on the Internet.
  3. Giving students access to powerful modeling and simulation tools.
  4. Giving students access to some of the most talented teachers in the world.
  5. Using the technologies of natural language processing and artificial intelligence, in combination with other technologies, to provide automated, accurate, and timely assessments of student progress.

I didn’t have a huge beef with anything that he listed. All of those likely have a place in our new systems of learning, teaching, and schooling. But they still reflect a fairly limited vision of what student learning with technology could be. Here’s what I said in my comment:

Marc, with due respect for all of your excellent work, I believe that you are missing the true impacts of digital technologies and the Internet. Every single one of the examples you list above portrays adults as the directors of the learning process and students merely as consumers.

The real transformation occurs when we give students access to robust learning technologies and then get out of their way as much as possible, giving them the power and permission to DIRECT THEIR OWN LEARNING. For the first time ever, our children have the ability to be powerful creators, collaborators, and contributors to our global information commons. They have the ability – at surprisingly young ages – to work with each other and with adults to follow their interests and passions and do relevant, authentic, meaningful knowledge work. In your list above, did you acknowledge the ability of digital technologies and the Internet to facilitate personal ownership, investment, and self-learning affordances in our youth? Nope, not at all. See http://bit.ly/NwBQrV for more about this concept.

Do children need help and guidance from adults along the way? Absolutely. But go visit a Big Picture school, or a New Tech school, or a High Tech High, or an Expeditionary Learning school, or an Edvisions school, or an Envision school. Learn from the work of Henry Jenkins, danah boyd, Mimi Ito, and others. Then think about what you left out from your list above…

I think we need to take bigger mental leaps as educators and policymakers. Digital technologies reinvent daily what our students could be doing, but our mindsets are holding us back. Marc never responded to my comment but if he ever has time I’d love to hear his thoughts (or yours)…

[Guiding questions: What can we do to give students more agency and ownership of what they learn, when they learn, how they learn, and how they show what they’ve learned? What can we do to better incorporate digital technologies into students’ deeper thinking and learning work in ways that are authentic, relevant, meaningful, and powerful? As we move toward more cognitively-complex, technology-suffused learning environments, what individual and societal mindsets – and local, state, and federal policy supports and/or barriers – need reconsideration?]

Image credit: Skimboarder gets big air, back flip

[cross-posted at Education Recoded]