Saturday, December 17, 2016

Time For These Seven Edu Funerals

Only in education, do we continue to try to breathe life into things that may never have been successful - and most certainly are not now. These things are so embedded in the culture, frameworks, policies, practice and mindsets of our schools and educational organizations, that many educators just blindly accept them, implement them and perpetuate them…..all regardless of their lack of success. Indeed, there is often overwhelming data or evidence that these things are not only unsuccessful, but often counterproductive.

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So, let’s have the funeral. Let’s start the fire. Let’s bury these SEVEN forever.
They are:

  • Homework As We Know It. The idea of independent practice as a means of increasing skill mastery sounds appealing and necessary. But homework, as it’s become known, does not do this. Indeed, homework has become mundane and repetitive work not grounded in increasing skill development, but rather compliance. It’s time to re-think the whole thing. Let’s come up with not only a new name, but a whole new approach. Most of us can remember when our work outside of class - homework - became meaningful, successful and relevant. And that’s when we got engaged in a project or deeper learning. We then chose, on our own, to perfect or improve our work.
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  • Lecturing, Note Taking. It’s long been researched, evaluated and established that this represents the lowest form of learning. Whether we’re using Bloom’s Taxonomy or other models, it is very obvious that we are operating at the ground level of learning if this is what we’re having our students do with any content or information. Students need to apply, inquire, create and be critically engaged with any knowledge in order to not only retain it, but to truly understand it. We know this. We know this. We know this. But still, we ignore it and allow many of our classrooms at both the secondary and post-secondary levels to operate with lecture and note-taking as their primary pedagogical approach to learning.
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  • Non-Digital Approaches. I’m not saying that there is still not a place, in some instances, for paper, pen and printed books. However, that being said, our dominant tools and resources should be digital. I’m ashamed that on the eve of 2017, we are still debating or considering anything but digital. All professional work and the entire global economy are digital. Having our students not work primarily in digital formats shortchanges them. Additionally, the resources and applications expand daily and we need to use them to maximize student experiences and opportunities.
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  • Textbooks - Digital or Not.. Since the advent of the internet, we should have abandoned the dependency on a single text. Regardless of subject, there are endless types of reliable, relevant and ever-developing resources. To be critical thinkers and true problems solvers, our students should be seeking the best and brightest information from these sources in all of their academic endeavors. The idea of a textbook, digital or not, is a holdover to outdated curriculum. Single source curriculum is dead. What professional, scientist, inventor, entrepreneur, or researcher would use only one text in their professional environments? The answer is none, especially with the quality and quantity of online resources today.
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  • Factory-Style Classrooms. Many educators, as well as students, parents, industry professionals and others have long acknowledged that too many of our classrooms still resemble those of the last century, as well as the factory floors that inspired them. It’s not just aesthetics or style, it’s directly related to the instructional models of the past. When we are in seated individually in rows facing the front of the classrooms, the mode of instruction is dominated by lecture pedagogy. Our classroom environments, layout and design need to resemble those that our students need to be successful in a new, more globalized and digital economy. These include, but are not limited to classroom configurations that are collaborative, comfortable, high tech, friendly, warm, inviting, friendly, flexible and ultimately conducive to project-based work.
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  • Final Exams. I do not mean that we should not have culminating activities or projects that are reflective, summative or comprehensive. But I am talking about the final exam. This is the 100-question multiple choice, short answer traditional final still given in thousands of high school and college courses across the country. They create an environment where students cram in order to regurgitate material versus applying that material in some meaningful way. They were designed with grades, teachers and structure in mind and not learning or students. Our finals need to be presentation type that includes like one’s digital portfolio, defense of learning, showcases & exhibitions, and more.

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  • Fear & Compliance. Finally, we need an entirely new cultural approach to learning and school. The system that depended on fear and compliance has long worn out its stay. We used to often tell new teachers to “not smile until Christmas” or “don’t be friendly as the students will see that as a sign of weakness.” These are not only archaic, but truly counterproductive to teaching and learning. Teaching and learning are relationship endeavors. Students need and require teachers that are excited, passionate, communicative, flexible, available, caring, creative, innovative and forever working on connecting to their students. Anything less will not produce anything more than sub-par results. Our students need and deserve authenticity versus authority. Current or future teachers not up for being in a relationship business need to find another career. There is no people-oriented pursuit that that of teaching and learning.
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(Photos courtesy of Foter, Pixabay and Other Public Domain Image Collections)