Sunday, August 2, 2015

How Monitoring and Evaluation Kill Creativity and Learning

In Free to Learn, Peter Gray talks about the "playful state of mind" and how observation and evaluation have a "debilitating effect" on learning. He relies on a number of studies, some recent and some as far back as the early 1900s in developing his thesis (pp. 132-33):

When research subjects believe their performance is being observed and evaluated, those who are already skilled become better and those who are not so skilled become worse. The debilitating effects of being observed and evaluated have been found to be even greater for mental tasks, such as solving difficult math problems or generating good rebuttals to the views of classical philosophers, than they are for physical tasks such as shooting pool. When the task involves creative thought or the learning of a difficult skill, the presence of an observer or evaluator inhibits almost all participants. The higher the status of the evaluator, and the more consequential the evaluation, the greater the inhibition of learning.

Schools are presumably places for learning and practice, not for experts to show off. Yet, with their incessant monitoring and evaluation of students' performances, schools seem to be ideally designed to boost the performance of those who are already good and to interfere with learning. Those who have somehow already learned the school tasks, maybe at home, generally perform well in this setting, but those who haven't tend to flounder. Evaluation drives a wedge between those who already know how and those who don't, pushing the former up and the latter down. Evaluation has this pernicious effect because it produces a mind-set that is opposite from the playful state of mind, which is the ideal state for learning new skills, solving new problems, and engaging in all sorts of creative activities.

If you knew nothing more about the learning processes, how might Gray's points about observation and evaluation alter your view of they types of learning activities children need? What might you do different as your students walk in the classroom door this fall?

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Learning to Do: From Unschooling Rules

According to Clark Aldrich, schools spend most of their time focused on learning to know the knowledge that comes from textbooks, lectures and other instruction typically delivered by a teacher.  Little time is spent on learning to do through skills that can then be applied in what he refers to as, "the productive world."

Aldrich provides an interesting list of 25 critical life skills which he claims are "seldom taught, tested, or graded" in schools:

  • Adapting
  • Analyzing and managing risks
  • Applying economic, value, and governing models
  • Behaving ethically
  • Being a leader
  • Building and nurturing relationships
  • Communicating
  • Creating or process reengineering new actions, processes and tools
  • Developing security
  • Efficiently meeting complex needs
  • Gathering evidence
  • Identifying and using boards of mentors and advisers
  • Maintaining and practicing stewardship of important systems and capabilities
  • Making prudent decisions
  • Managing conflict
  • Managing projects
  • Negotiating
  • Planning long term
  • Prioritizing tasks and goals
  • Probing
  • Procurement
  • Scheduling
  • Solving problems innovatively
  • Sourcing/buying/procuring goods and services
  • Using containment strategies
How do we move away from learning only what's tested in school to learning what will be tested in life?

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

My #ISTE2015 Topic List

Going back over my notes and Tweets during the recent ISTE Conference in Philadelphia, I highlighted a list of key learning terms that are changing the face of K-12 education and, to the extent they are finding their way into schools, are finally moving us forward:

  • Unlearning
  • Maker education (or simply maker ed)
  • Maker spaces
  • Culture of making
  • Design thinking and learning
  • Connected learning (for both the kids and the adults)
  • Global learning
  • Learning through creation versus consumption
  • Future ready
  • SAMR
  • STEM and STEAM
  • Coding
  • Online professional learning using social networking (e.g., Tweet of the Day)
  • Writing and publishing
  • Genius Hour (for both kids and the adults)
  • Putting technology in students' hands:
    • leveler
    • door opener
    • deeper learning
    • adjacent possibilities
    • student voice
    • agency
    • social justice
    • passion
    • digital citizen
    • digital leader
  • Learning is still based on relationships

Compilation of #ISTE2015 Tweets

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Efforts to Improve Teacher Equity Hinge on Funding Equity

As federal and state debates heat up over the inequities of quality teachers and the need for more regulation to ensure every child is served by a well-qualified teacher, Bruce Baker reminds us that regulations without equitable funding (e.g., greater funding for students and schools with higher needs) will fall short.



About those Ed Regs for Improving Teacher Equity: A preview of new (old) findings | School Finance 101

As states roll out their plans, this topic is again getting some ed media attention, most of which (if not all) misses entirely the point that regulatory pressure passed by states along to local public districts will achieve little or nothing in equalizing the distribution of teacher/teaching/instructional resources across schools and children statewide. That is, without any attention to inter-district disparities in school funding, which as I have noted, have only continued to get worse. Bottom line, you can’t fix cross-school, statewide disparities in resources without fixing between district disparities in funding. 
As a basis by which inequality should be determined, the administration places significant emphasis on variations in concentrations of children in poverty across schools. That is, resources should be equitably distributed across children by their economic status.[5] Just what “equity” means under the circumstances is left to states to articulate in their proposals, but the language of the regulations suggests that, at the very least, children in high poverty settings should not be subjected to fewer total resources or teachers with lesser qualifications – that there should not be a negative correlation between poverty concentrations and resources. 
Put simply, the amount of funding available to any school district determines the amount it can spend on its schools and, in turn, the combination of wage competitiveness and staffing ratios the district can provide. Those with more can spend more; those without can’t. Where inter-district inequities persist – especially where districts serving needier student populations have substantially lower spending – so too will inequities in the various indicators suggested for review by the U.S. Department of Education. Regulatory intervention without more substantive changes to state school finance systems will likely achieve little. So too will legal challenges to statutes and regulations which fail to correct inter-district disparities in available funding.