Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Education Week: What Do School Rankings Really Mean?

Education Week: What Do School Rankings Really Mean?
Funny that I should come across this article right when we are trying to argue a case for why FGCS should not have to conform solely to the school district's and broader dominant educational standard of 'best' school rankings based on test scores.

The article critiques the popular approach to listing top ranked schools based on indicators such as high SAT scores. Burney states, Attainment of “top” status can render schools complacent at best, and negligent at worst, regarding the learning of individual students...indicators such as high SAT scores are misleading as a key indicator of a school’s educational quality, because students from advantaged backgrounds tend to do relatively well, in part because they have access to hours of expensive test preparation, and ongoing intellectual enrichment from home.She questions how these schools can be considered the 'best' when their focus is on teaching to the test, excessive seatwork and perpetuating a culture that squelches students' love of learning and fails to teach skills to pursue productive & satisfying lives.

eSN Special Report: Small-group collaboration

eSN Special Report: Small-group collaboration

We teach the value of constructivist approaches and collaborative work in educational psychology, but as this article points out the reality of today's world requires that students be able to work with others both face-to-face and in a global digital context. Collaboration is "authentic learning," Hobson said, and it is "transformational in that kids see their work is valued beyond the teacher. We're so very connected now, it's critical that kids have the ability to collaborate even when they're not in the same physical space."

Though the article focuses on using technology tools to support group work, those of us with limited technology in the classroom can still use its ideas - along with some creative thinking - to create a rich learning environment that encorporates a variety of learning styles...

'Plano's curriculum stresses multitasking in classrooms, which means some students might be working in groups, while others are working individually or listening to the teacher. "To get the most personalized learning," Hirsch said, "everyone shouldn't be working on the same thing at the same time." He believes mini-projectors could be a "key component of multitasking in the classroom."'

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Roles of Schools; The Place of Education

Egan, K (1992) The Roles of Schools: The Place of Education. Teachers College Record Vol.93 No.4 pp. 641-655.

Egan writes on what he calls the messy concept of education.
"All societies have procedures for initiating the young into sharing the norms, values, and commitments that govern social life and determine the distive identity for both the group and the individual within it"

In oral cultures these procedures place a significant emphasis on memory as the method of preserving knowledge, lore, and customs.. and they discovered:
- information can be made more easily and reliably memorable by encoding it verbally in vivid images
- lore coded into stories was much more easily remembered than if conveyed by other medium.

- engage intellectually + affectively
- communicate information/values/norms of behaviour while engaging a commitment to them

Invention and spread of literacy has resulted in
- less reliance on memory
- 'loss of the intensity of participatory experience in an immediate life-world in which ones' store of knowledge & lore was profoundly & vitally meaningful'

The Incompatible Modern Conceptions of Education

- Socialization = the process of initiating the young into the norms & values of the adult society
- education consists of a methodical socialization & inculcation of homogeneity of the young generation into society
- Rhetoric = technique of oral language & art of pursuasion -> finishing school 
-  Critical rationality
- Education = process of learning various forms of knowledge to cultivate a better informed understanding of the world & human experience [vs making students fit dominant norms]
- knowledge drives the educational process & its stages are recognized by the amount & kind of knowledge that has been acquired
- knowledge determines educational development
- Natural development 'fix your eyes on nature, follow the path traced by her'
- Individual Differences
- natural development drives the educational process & the acquisition of knowledge is subject to that process
- development determines what knowledge is meaningful

"The challenge for a curriculum that tries to implement such a concept of education is to make people more alike while making them more distinct, and to use knowledge to shape the nature of the individual while letting the nature of the individual determine what knowledge is relevant"

Factory Model Instructional Design
Planning a Unit/Lesson [informed by 19th century Western industrial institutions]
  1. articulate objective clearly & precisely [design in detail intended product]
  2. select content to attain objectives [supply materials necessary to build it]
  3. decide on methods most appropriate for teaching that content to attain those objectives [arrange skills to put components together]
  4. evaluate the degree to which they have successfully attained objectives [test to ensure it works as planned]
State's interest in schools is largely confined to socialization [Durkheim]
- reducing cultural diversity & expanding social homogenization

Dewey - progressivist shaping of schools
- concern to humanize the experience of schooling, to encourage students' activity & inquiry [critical thinking] and to imbue in them the values of democratic social life.

"The centrality of the story form &; image formation have been largely displaced by discursive prose, theory & the concept. The latter set encourages literal, practical & productive thinking; the former set encourages affective & imaginative thinking."

"..we have seen a distinct tilt in favor of a modern, centralized state-required form of socialization, along with, somewhat incidentally, a largely ineffective industry of pseudo-scientific research that is supposed to fine-tune the educational process. We have seen a depreciation of the Platonic program and of the role of emotion & imagination in schooling."

What Causes Education?
2 major contenders - education is caused by:
Plato - the individual's learning appropriate knowledge that gives a privleges view of reality, freed from teh illusions & confusions due to personal interests, social circumstances & so on.
Rousseau - the individual's successfully attaining increasingly sophisticated cognitive skills, enabling critical thinking, problem solving & the autonomous pursuit of self-determined goals.

Imagination in Education
Early education recapitulates a kind of understanding evident in early cutlural history [young chidren coming to school live in an oral culture]
- to teach concrete contnet utied to powerful abstractions is to starve the imagination
TS Eliot 'It is only at the end of our exploring that we come to the place where we started and know it for the first time.'

"The dominant concept of education that currently shapes our schools in incoherent...the cause, I have argued,lies in the concept of education that dominates thinking about such things as management procedures, teaching techniques, student learning, the curriculum and so on...with the educational system, the problem is the theoretical incoherence, and its most disturbing symptom is that it disempowers all those who work within it"