Thursday, February 18, 2016

to measure and express learning

Pestalozzi had worked out an alphabet of form as an aid to students in their direct perceptions. It interests me that students can look at a form and not be able to break it down into its component parts. This may be in large part because they are conditioned to receive information from others passively either in person through lecture or delivered through a digital device. I am proving this in my student's making of guitars. "What's next," they ask, and I ask them to go and look and see for themselves. I have about a half dozen guitars in one stage of making or another. When you make something or draw something, or put it in use, things become more real and more energized in the conscious mind.
"To get rid of the 'verbosity' of meaningless words Pestalozzi developed his doctrine of Anschauung - direct concrete observation, often inadequately called 'sense perception' or 'object lessons'. No word was to be used for any purpose until adequate Anschauung had preceded. The thing or distinction must be felt or observed in the concrete. Pestalozzi's followers developed various sayings from this: from the known to the unknown, from the simple to the complex, from the concrete to the abstract.

To perfect the perception got by the Anschauung the thing that must be named, an appropriate action must follow. 'A man learns by action... have done with [mere] words!' 'Life shapes us and the life that shapes us is not a matter of words but action'.

Out of this demand for action came an emphasis on repetition - not blind repetition, but repetition of action following the Anschauung." --William H. Kilpatrick in his introduction to Heinrich Pestalozzi (1951) The Education of Man - Aphorisms, New York: Philosophical Library.
And so his next step, had Pestalozzi been able to accomplish it, was to have been the development of an alphabet of skills. But, of course the wide range of human skills are difficult to alphabetize. Do we place one ahead of another when each is essential to sustaining the lives of individuals and of human culture? Try to spend a day with no music, and see what I mean.

Both Pestalozzi and Frobel had noted that what was learned by the child must be expressed by the child as a direct consequence of learning, or it and the efforts of learning it would be wasted. So completely rejecting that advice, educational policy makers devised whole systems of confinement under the guise of education.

In Swedish, the word for education is utbildning.  Like many words in the northern European languages, it is a combination of two words, one meaning out, and the other build or to form. And so that word is an excellent one to guide us in the re-form of education. Progressive education seeks to connect the inner child with the outer world, and to build is what we hope might happen as a result.

The interesting thing from my perspective is that if children were allowed (and encouraged?) to do real things in response to their learning, we would be able to completely eliminate standardized testing, as who would need artificial means to measure what they could see for themselves?

Make, fix, create, and for God's and your own sake assist others in learning likewise.

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