Sunday, December 04, 2016

Educational theory and reform in a nutshell

Using toothpicks to attach the bottom of a Shaker box
No Child Left Behind was a top down scheme in which the feds set standards and rewarded or punished schools based on student performance on standardized tests. There was some resistance to federal mandates, so the states became involved setting their own top down scheme using the "common core." Great ideas, however, are hamstrung by faulty implementation and ill conceived methodology. Yes, it would be wonderful if all students were to arise to do their best. Despite the best intentions of policy makers, they are simply in the wrong place from which to interfere to make necessary change.

This takes me, again, back to 19th century educational sloyd. The principles, I repeat once again in the hopes they may become yet more clear: Start with the interests of the child. Move in necessary increments from the known to the unknown, from the easy to the more difficult, from the simple to the complex, and from the concrete to the abstract.

Planning the move from the easy to the more difficult is easy. Starting with the interests of the child, in a complex culture is not so easy, in that even in a small class of first graders interests and level of prior experience will vary to a great degree. So starting with the interest to the child requires that the child's interests be known and allowed for in the PLANNING of school activities. If planning instead, is done on the state level or federal level, where is the necessary skill and sensitivity in that?

Moving from the known to the unknown can also be problematic, in that some students will arrive on their first day of school, having had interests and supportive experiences far beyond, or far less than their classmates. Some students will arrive at school intent on scholarly success, driven by parental expectations, and some will not.

Moving from the simple to the complex is relatively easy, as it is always easy to make simple matters more complex, but to make that movement in such a manner as the complex is made simple and clear to serve as a foundation for the next level of complexity, is not a thing to be crammed through without careful personal assessment of the comprehension level and interest level of each child.

So here we come to the most important point, moving in increments from the concrete to the abstract. This is not to say that the concrete should in any way or at any point be moved away from, but that it should infect every branch and every level of learning.

So, to bring things home, I want to make planning for student success simple enough  for any teacher or any educational policy maker to understand. When it comes to schooling, make it real, and insist that what you offer is meaningful to the student.

In tomorrow's post, I'll address making it real and keeping it meaningful. And yes, woodworking in schools has an important role to play in educational success.

Make, fix, create, and increase through your example, the likelihood that others will be inspired to learn likewise.

1 comment:

  1. René3:37 AM

    Walking from one "Open Door Day" to the next, I recognized the following: Your children are at the age of 5 years, you visit a school to decide, if this should be the place for your kid to start in the school system - and one of the first things pointed out by the school principal is something like:"Kids leaving our school are qualified to visit schools of higher education" or "...qualified to enter University." In most cases, the principal does not forget to bring out, that the rate of successful alumnis of this school is this or that percent - high, of course.
    Is that really the point: To look at the possible career opportunities after school?
    What other motivation might a school principal offer to the parents?
    What is the "everything will be fine"-formula for nowadays parents and teachers (and children)?
    Another view on being human; on being human in a social, natural or economical environment; on own ethics and expectations?