Resources and Reflections

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

What does school reform look like?

From Learning Now
"Looks like project-based collaborative learning, supporting inquiry. Ungraded schools supplemented with hybrid online courses. As with the Coalition of Essential Schools model a capstone like activity that demonstrates deep understandings and the ability to apply knowledge in new contexts. One very good model to consdider: Expeditionary Learning Schools.

Does it incorporate principles like inquiry-based learning and 21st century citizenship, as suggested by the conference themes?
Yes, especially the Seven Survival Skills that Tony Wagner delineates in “The Global Achievement Gap.” Definitely worth reading. Here are the seven:

1. Critical thinking and problem-solving
2. Collaboration across networks and leadership by influence
3. Adaptability and agility
4. Initiative and entrepreneurialship
5. Effective oral and written communication skills
6. Accessing and analyzing information
7. Curiosity and imagination

How central a role does technology play in reform, and how do we avoid it from being a distraction to our ultimate goals?
Technology should play a central role given that it makes information readily available, allows collaboration in ways otherwise not possible, such as global projects. It be used only when it makes sense.

What barriers need to be broken down or even demolished outright?
We will have to give up on the idea that its possible to measure student achievement with a once-a-year standardized test. This should be replace with ongoing formative assessments and other so called “authentic” forms of assessment depending on the nature of the learning and its context.

And how realistic is it that we’ll reach any of these goals?
Unfortunately, slim. Given the fact that its far easier for the public to understand a number that they can then compare to another number (standardized tests) it will be a hard sell to convince them that there is a better way to assess and learn.

The other major obstacle is the fact that inquiry-based models such as project-based learning and its cousins, require skills that most teachers haven’t learned as part of their teacher preparation. Lots of professional development will be required and given that it is costly, it seems unlikely. Then, there is the issue of time. For teachers to become effective with the inquiry-based model they need time to work with peers, evaluate lessons, reflect on and refine their teaching.

Then there are the cultural barriers. Parents expect their children to be taught in the same manner that they were taught. This combined with the current political climate given NCLB work against change."

By Tom Kennedy 1:57PM on 24 Jan 09


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