Tag Archives: teaching

Redefining ‘rigor’

Tedd Wakeman said:

We’ve always defined, as an educational community, rigor as being a lot of hard drudgery, what we consider really hard work, taking engagement and interests completely out of the equation and saying, ‘If we see kids who are sitting at their desks and they’re just writing a ton or they’re doing a bunch of research, if they just look kind of upset, if they look like they are not enjoying themselves, then there is rigorous things going on in that classroom.’ That’s a real problem.

We need to stop defining rigor as busywork, as kids knuckling down to the pressure and the drudgery of school. At the end of the year, there is this huge binder of notes and diagrams from PowerPoint exhibits, stuff that kids worked all year on. I’ve talked to kids here who have produced an artifact like that. To the outside community, even in many ways to the inside community, that looks rigorous because, look at what you produced.

But when we talk to those kids, when we ask, ‘What are your retaining from this? What do you feel, what are some of the big concepts that you came away with, and how are you applying those in your life in your lives every day,’ they can’t tell you. They know that they did this thing and they got a good grade on it but they can’t tell you what they are going to do with that. And yet to the more traditional educational community, that’s viewed as rigor.

We would much rather define rigor as the pursuit of solving a really difficult task that you care about solving. And that persistence can be taught in that way as opposed to, ‘Yeah, let’s teach kids persistence by having them do this thing that they couldn’t care less about, but it’s really hard and just if you can survive it, that’s persistence.’

via http://blogs.kqed.org/mindshift/2014/07/a-school-that-ditches-all-the-rules-but-not-the-rigor-game-based-school-playmaker

Should our first goal really be to preserve the structure?

Justin Schwamm said:

Two decades ago, before the great push for higher standards and more accountability, there was a tacit agreement in most factory-model schools: “Just close my door,” said Ms. X, “and let me teach, and don’t bother me because I’m busy.” “Just keep them busy and quiet,” responded her Powers That Be, “and show up for the Special Training and the Scheduled Meeting, and make sure the Relevant Paperwork is in the file.” Within that tacit agreement lay a great deal of freedom and opportunity … for innovation or for more of the Same Old Same Old. As the Relevant Paperwork was complete and the busy, quiet students weren’t roaming the hallways, teachers and students could be as innovative and creative as they wanted.

But then came higher standards and more accountability … and in themselves, those aren’t bad things. But if you operate from a hierarchical individual point of view about leadership and learning, the only logical pathway to higher standards is to command and control them into existence … and the only way to achieve accountability is to ramp up the inspection and testing. I was intrigued to see an article from EdSurge about how and why Rocketship Education moved away from an experiment they’d tried this year … an experiment that seemed to produce positive results of various kinds. The problem? “The lack of a formal structure made it difficult for Rocketship to replicate and control quality,” especially with younger teachers who “rely on pre-determined schedules and procedures, with clearly defined expectations about their work, in order to focus on building basic teaching skills.”

In other words, the promising innovation didn’t fit the existing institutional structure. If you’ve ever worked in a hierarchical structure, you know how important it is to preserve the structure. It takes a great deal of work by Relevant Powers to make anything else as important as preserving the structure.

via https://joyfullatinlearning.wordpress.com/2014/07/16/where-and-how

Why meaningful math problems are defined out of online assessments

Dan Meyer said:

at this moment in history, computers are not a natural working medium for mathematics.

For instance: think of a fraction in your head.

Say it out loud. That’s simple.

Write it on paper. Still simple.

Now communicate that fraction so a computer can understand and grade it. Click open the tools palette. Click the fraction button. Click in the numerator. Press the “4″ key. Click in the denominator. Press the “9″ key.

That’s bad, but if you aren’t convinced the difference is important, try to communicate the square root of that fraction. If it were this hard to post a tweet or update your status, Twitter and Facebook would be empty office space on Folsom Street and Page Mill Road.

It gets worse when you ask students to do anything meaningful with fractions. Like: “Explain whether 4/3 or 3/4 is closer to 1, and how you know.”

It’s simple enough to write down an explanation. It’s also simple to speak that explanation out loud so that somebody can assess its meaning. In 2012, it is impossible for a computer to assess that argument at anywhere near the same level of meaning. Those meaningful problems are then defined out of “mathematics.”

via http://blog.mrmeyer.com/2012/what-silicon-valley-gets-wrong-about-math-education-again-and-again

The REAL international story of American education

Linda Darling-Hammond said:

Federal policy under No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and the Department of Education’s ‘flexibility’ waivers has sought to address [the problem of international competitiveness] by beefing up testing policies — requiring more tests and upping the consequences for poor results: including denying diplomas to students, firing teachers, and closing schools. Unfortunately, this strategy hasn’t worked. In fact, U.S. performance on the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) declined in every subject area between 2000 and 2012 — the years in which these policies have been in effect.

Now we have international evidence about something that has a greater effect on learning than testing: Teaching. The results of the Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS), released last week by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), offer a stunning picture of the challenges experienced by American teachers, while providing provocative insights into what we might do to foster better teaching — and learning — in the United States.

In short, the survey shows that American teachers today work harder under much more challenging conditions than teachers elsewhere in the industrialized world. They also receive less useful feedback, less helpful professional development, and have less time to collaborate to improve their work. Not surprisingly, two-thirds feel their profession is not valued by society — an indicator that OECD finds is ultimately related to student achievement.

Nearly two-thirds of U.S. middle-school teachers work in schools where more than 30 percent of students are economically disadvantaged. This is by far the highest rate in the world, and more than triple the average TALIS rate. The next countries in line after the United States are Malaysia and Chile.

Along with these challenges, U.S. teachers must cope with larger class sizes (27 versus the TALIS average of 24). They also spend many more hours than teachers in any other country directly instructing children each week (27 versus the TALIS average of 19). And they work more hours in total each week than their global counterparts (45 versus the TALIS average of 38), with much less time in their schedules for planning, collaboration, and professional development.

via http://www.huffingtonpost.com/linda-darlinghammond/to-close-the-achievement_b_5542614.html

In many cases your student peers aren’t burdensome, they’re essential

Dan Meyer said:

most software for individualized instruction fails to connect learners in the kinds of productive debates Brendan describes. And that’s by design. Individualization is the watchword. Don’t let yourself become burdened by your classmates! But in many cases your peers aren’t burdensome. They’re essential. And the software fails to distinguish one case from the other.

via http://blog.mrmeyer.com/2014/tools-for-socialized-instruction-not-individualized-instruction/comment-page-1/#comment-1968224

What would my own kids think?

Kirk Vandersall said:

My two measures when observing classrooms: Would I put my kids in this classroom? And how fast would my kid run from the bus to join this class in progress?

via https://plus.google.com/u/0/114013290441401744760/posts/Pogw2kuQkmz

‘Managing students’ technology’ equals ‘forcing them to sit and listen’

Calvin Hennick wrote:

NetSupport’s Kingsley is more skeptical. He laughs at the notion that students will studiously ignore text messages and social media updates from their friends and simply put their devices down when the ­teacher is talking. “Have you been in a classroom?” he asks. “If only the kids would do that.”

“The level of temptation, whether it’s Facebook status updates or chatting with other students, there will always be students doing that,” Kingsley adds. “If you tell them to go to a particular website, how do you know all 30 kids are on that website? You don’t, unless you get up and walk around and check, and then you’ve just wasted 10 minutes of class time. The whole point of this [screen monitoring/blocking] software is to free up time for teachers to do what they do best, which is to teach.”

via http://t.co/HkDelF2ZFP

In other words, teaching = teacher talking while kids are forced to sit and listen.

You could view walking around and seeing what is on kids’ screens as wasting 10 minutes of class time (10 minutes? really?). Or you could view it as what teachers already should be doing.

Another technological ‘solution’ to what ultimately is a learning-teaching issue…

One of the most destructive ways to raise a child is with ‘conditional regard’

Alfie Kohn said:

Fury over the possibility that kids will get off too easy or feel too good about themselves seems to rest on three underlying values.

The first is deprivation: Kids shouldn’t be spared struggle and sacrifice, regardless of the effects. The second value is scarcity: the belief that excellence, by definition, is something that not everyone can attain. No matter how well a group of students performs, only a few should get A’s. Otherwise we’re sanctioning “grade inflation” and mediocrity. To have high standards, there must always be losers.

But it’s the third conviction that really ties everything together: an endorsement of conditionality. Children ought never to receive something desirable – a sum of money, a trophy, a commendation – unless they’ve done enough to merit it. They shouldn’t even be allowed to feel good about themselves without being able to point to tangible accomplishments. In this view, we have a moral obligation to reward the deserving and, equally important, make sure the undeserving go conspicuously unrewarded. Hence the anger over participation trophies. The losers mustn’t receive something that even looks like a reward.

A commitment to conditionality lives at the intersection of economics and theology. It’s where lectures about the law of the marketplace meet sermons about what we must do to earn our way into heaven. Here, almost every human interaction, even among family members, is regarded as a kind of transaction.

Interestingly, no research that I know of has ever shown that unconditionality is harmful in terms of future achievement, psychological health or anything else. In fact, studies generally show exactly the opposite. One of the most destructive ways to raise a child is with “conditional regard.”

via http://mobile.nytimes.com/2014/05/04/opinion/sunday/do-our-kids-get-off-too-easy.html

If you’re functionally equivalent to a YouTube video…

Dan Meyer said:

Teachers are a great medium for lots of things that a YouTube video isn’t. “Conversation, dialogue, reasoning, and open questions,” as I put it in my post. If you, as a teacher, aren’t taking advantage of your medium, if you’re functionally equivalent to a YouTube video, you should be replaced by a YouTube video.

via http://blog.mrmeyer.com/2012/what-silicon-valley-gets-wrong-about-math-education-again-and-again

Thinkers v. producers

Think sign

In How Children Fail, John Holt makes the following distinction:

  • producers - students who are only interested in getting right answers, and who make more or less uncritical use of rules and formulae to get them
  • thinkers – students who try to think about the meaning, the reality, of whatever it is they are working on

A great question to ask ourselves: What is the ratio of thinkers to producers in our school(s)? In most schools, I’m guessing the ratio is fairly small, even for our high-achieving students.

Another great question to ask ourselves: What is an average school day like for those students in our school(s) who ARE thinkers?

Image credit: Think!, florriebassingbourn

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