In our current educational discussions of standardized testing, core curriculum, STEM, the elimination of arts education and the concern for special needs/gifted student/non-English speaking student education, not to mention the ever-changing role of the use of technology in the classroom and its impact on the learning experience, as well as societal issues such as bullying, proper social media utilization behavior, family stress, child abuse awareness and prevention training, and criminal background scans, the key to a student’s learning is an openness to the potential which education holds. Students from birth to 6 years old are like “sponges” that learn from simply everything around them. It’s the “graded” experience (that is, grades 1-12), where preferred learning styles develop, but the student’s predisposition to the educational process is foundational to the effectiveness of his or her educational experience.
From the educational discussions occurring today, seems that the assessment of that educational experience is impacted by two main factors:
1) The ability of the student to translate their learning achievement into meaningful work; and
2) “How” the classroom learning experienced is fostered by the educational expert (that is, the teacher).
It’s interesting, since the two factors, along with the educational experience of the student, is a concern of the three main groups associated with education. Educators are concerned with the learning experience and the predisposition of the student to that experience ; Business is concerned with the ability to translate achievement into work, and Parents are concerned with what type of experience their children have in the classroom. After all, parents today have choices as to where their children can receive their education, whether that be in the public school, a private school, a faith-based school, or in a homeschooling environment.
The teacher is expected to straddle these three constituencies, landing in the middle of the Venn Diagram created by the intersection of these three spheres of influence.
While it’s incumbent upon the teacher to analyze their audience of students in their classroom, and use the appropriate instructional strategies to enable the most effective learning in every students within every class they’re assigned to teach, it could be argued that the teacher should develop an Individualized Educational Program (IEP) for each of the students based on their preferred learning style using the appropriate instructional strategies. An excellent article regarding this mindset can be found at http://www.teachinontario.ca/employment/En/3b_strategies.html – and note that it does not come from an educational resource in the United States.
Back in the pre-Internet era, there was some research conducted to support the fact that although the teacher should operate according to these principles, many teachers reverted to the instructional strategy that was most effective for their learning, or, that was practiced by their favorite teacher in their learning experience. For example, if the teacher liked math lectures, and achieved high grades in math classes that were lecture-based, they would be more prone to lecture than to allow children to utilize manipulatives to facilitate learning about geometrical shapes.
Speaking of shapes, note the triangle (or pyramid…or perhaps a tetrahedron) in this article’s featured image, which also figures prominently in the article regarding instructional strategies. It shows the effectiveness of instructional strategies on learners, breaking them into two distinct categories: Passive Teaching and Active Teaching.
5% – Lecture
10% – Reading (Literature)
20% – Audio/Visual (Presentation)
30% – Demonstration
50% – Group Discussion
75% – Practice
90% – Teaching Others
The percentages indicate the effectiveness of the learning experienced by the student. That is, the student learns best when they are assigned to teach others what they have learned, rather than simply listening to a lecture about the subject. In this diagram, the student would have to listen to the lecture at least 18 times to reach the same level of mastery as they would if the student had to teach the concept to someone else.
It stands to reason, then, that combining these activities could have a profound effect on the learning experience, utilizing a lecture to introduce the topic, providing a demonstration, conducting a group discussion, and then demonstrating the learning by requiring the student to teach the topic to other students.
Now, before they teach that topic, make them aware of the first sentence of this article, and, as a condition of their teaching, must incorporate consideration for those issues in the lesson they prepare. If they can deal with that, they may come to the realization that teachers are now expected to do that for 7 classes per day for 180 days of instruction during the year, totaling 1,260 sessions. In reality, though, it must be done over the course of 32 weeks, since there are 4 9-week long grading periods, and 4 of those weeks are more and more becoming reserved for standardized testing.
If we provide that rubric consistently, do we honestly think that anyone will want to become a teacher, especially with current discussions of lengthening the school day, and even moving the school year to be a year-round practice and eliminating “summer vacation?” So, here’s a thought. Keep the school year the way that it is. Teachers can then teach, providing the expertise in lesson design and assessment. Then, when the school year is over, only then does the standardized testing begins. Just like finals in college, with a schedule that bears no resemblance to the day-to-day or week-to-week routine of the regular school year, standardized tests could be presented all at once, and only affect the grades which are subject to the testing, rather than the whole school community. Homeschooled children and publicly funded cyberschool attendees could also be required to take the tests simultaneously.
Or, we can continue to have our trained educational professionals continue to be well-paid proctors instead of facilitating the learning that is so critical to a child’s achievement.