Archive for January 2012
I recently attended a workshop entitled “Beyond Assessing for Knowledge” presented by Kimberly Tanner whose research agenda is:
To understand how people learn science and how teachers and scientists can collaborate to make science teaching and learning in classrooms – Kindergarten through college – more like how scientists work (http://biology.sfsu.edu/people/kimberly-tanner).
The key points that I extracted from the talk are:
- To what extent do current assessments yield insight into the development of “Thinking Like a (Professional in the Field Being Studied)?”
- The problem with many assessments is they measure what students know not what they can do with that knowledge.
- How can instructional strategies help learners develop expertise in the content area?
Dr. Tanner presented her research about the development of expertise among graduating undergraduate biology students. Simply stated, she used card sorting to analyze expertise. She got some baseline data using biology faculty and non-biology freshman. Obviously, the biology faculty far outscored the non-biology freshman. Then this same task was given to graduating biology students. The predication was that the graduating biology students would more closely match the faculty, but the results indicated that that they were only a few percentage points above the non-biology freshman.
The results don’t surprise me as I believe this is indicative of the problem we not only have in higher education, but also in K-12 environments. Students learn the basic surface knowledge related to the content presented in their classes. Their test scores often indicate as such. But what does testing students on the lowest levels of Blooms taxonomy – knowing, possibly understanding – really tell us? What will the students know, understand, and use outside of the classroom related to the content taught? How will their ways of being and interacting in the world be different because of these learning experiences?
This information is not new nor earth shattering. I have a hunch that similar results would occur if this research was used to assess students’ knowledge about most any content area. There are several key elements or questions that are pertinent to this discussion:
- What is the ultimate goal of teaching and learning? For students to know something on the surface or for students to be able to think and do something differently?
- What is the clarion call from the research like Dr. Kimmer’s?
- How should and can instructional strategies be reformed to help learners think like the professionals in their respective fields?
- What types of assessment measure deep learning?
One strategy proposed by Angela Maiers in Who Are Their Learning Heroes — and Why? is to have learners build a dream team of thinkers and doers, a team of their heroes and explore not only their knowledge base but also their -
- work ethic
- study habits
- thought process
- energy focus
- other behavioral practices
I believe that a focus in Passion-Based Learning can also lead to deep learning. I discuss this more in PBL is Passion-Based Learning: Show Me Your Passion.
This Is Generation Flux: Meet The Pioneers Of The New (And Chaotic) Frontier Of Business was recently published by Fast Company. It’s intent is to introduce and describe some of the key movers and shakers in the business world and includes danah boyd and Peter Cashmore. What is of particular to me, as an educator, is those factors that influenced their successes.
Some the key points from this article include:
The fast rate of change creates difficulties in predicting the future . . .
The pace of change in our economy and our culture is accelerating–fueled by global adoption of social, mobile, and other new technologies–and our visibility about the future is declining.
New technologies and social media are producing vast, significant change . . .
In an age where Twitter and other social-media tools play key roles in recasting the political map in the Mideast; where impoverished residents of refugee camps would rather go without food than without their cell phones; where all types of media, from music to TV to movies, are being remade, redefined, defended, and attacked every day in novel ways–there is no question that we are in a new world.
Being able to conceptualize today’s world in a single, static paradigm is impossible . . .
There is one certainty, however. The next decade or two will be defined more by fluidity than by any new, settled paradigm; if there is a pattern to all this, it is that there is no pattern. The most valuable insight is that we are, in a critical sense, in a time of chaos. Chaotic disruption is rampant.
Old and institutionalized models of problem-solving do not work for today’s problems in today’s institutions . . .
There’s a difference between the kind of problems that companies, institutions, and governments are able to solve and the ones that they need to solve. Most big organizations are good at solving clear but complicated problems. They’re absolutely horrible at solving ambiguous problems–when you don’t know what you don’t know. Faced with ambiguity, their gears grind to a halt (sounds like the current educational system).
The nostalgic “we’ve always done it that way” will lead to failure. A future-focus needs to drive change . . .
If ambiguity is high and adaptability is required, then you simply can’t afford to be sentimental about the past. Future-focus is a signature trait of Generation Flux. Nostalgia is a natural human emotion, a survival mechanism that pushes people to avoid risk by applying what we’ve learned and relying on what’s worked before. It’s also about as useful as an appendix right now. When times seem uncertain, we instinctively become more conservative; we look to the past, to times that seem simpler, and we have the urge to re-create them. But when the past has been blown away by new technology, by the ubiquitous and always-on global hypernetwork, beloved past practices may well be useless.
It is imperative to learn the technology tools of the day and these change daily . . .
It’s irresponsible not to use the tools of the day. If you master those things and stop, you’re just going to get killed by the next thing. Flexibility of skills leads to flexibility of options. To see what you can’t see coming, you’ve got to embrace larger principles.
Only those who are open and adaptable will survive . . .
To flourish requires a new kind of openness. More than 150 years ago, Charles Darwin foreshadowed this era in his description of natural selection: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives; nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.” As we traverse this treacherous, exciting bridge to tomorrow, there is no clearer message than that.
21st Century and Workforce Skills
Organizations such as The Partnership for 21st Learning and Institute for the Future have proposed skills necessary to survive and thrive in the current and future workforce. But given as the article proposes, our visibility about the future is declining, even these might not address this Generation Flux.
Extracted from the article are the current 21st century skills needed in today‘s workforce: (Note that the words current and today are highlighted meaning that they might change in the near future.)
- Embraces instability.
- Learns to recalibrate thoughts, actions, attitudes based on what is what is being presented.
- Learns continuously from multiple sources of information.
- Understands global, mobile, and technology trends.
- Ability to work collaboratively and within teams.
- Ability to work with and solve complex, ambiguous problems.
- Takes risks while managing fears.
- Has a passion for learning new skills.
How does the school curriculum reflect and “teach” these skills? What is being done to prepare learners for generation flux?
I was at a summer day camp in sixth grade. They took us on a field trip to a local amusement park. I had wandered away from the group and settled on a park bench to watch a group of kids with developmental disabilities on the merry-go-round. The looks of pure delight and squeals of joy resonated deeply within me. I had never seen such pure and innocent joy. The richness of the experiences I was witnessing brought tears to my eyes. Growing up I had been given a message that folks like the ones I was seeing had disabilities but wondered who really had the disability. Most of my friends and the adults I knew did not seem to have the capability to be that fully present in a moment. So where was and who had the real disability? This was a peak experience in my life. I so desperately wanted to discuss my thoughts with someone but knew that my friends wouldn’t understand nor were there any adults in my life with whom I could share my thoughts.
I later become a counselor focusing on at-risk youth. My preference was to use group counseling. The things shared by youth in that setting were profound, insightful, and sometimes earth-shattering. Not only did they share their often very difficult life experiences, they talked about religion, sexuality, and prejudice. Since many were the “outcasts”, they had ideas often not shared by a mainstream public. I often left those sessions and went to have a deep cry about the life experiences and thoughts shared by the kids.
Now as an educator and teacher educator, I wonder, given the extremely structured settings of education, where kids can share their personal ideas and thoughts. Kids spend much of their time in school and this may be the only social setting in their lives. So I believe school and after-school programs need to provide kids with a place and space to express themselves. I believe this place needs to have the following characteristics.
- There is no agenda, topic for discussion, nor curriculum.
- It should be non-judgmental – all ideas and thoughts are accepted, even those that would make adults shutter.
- There should be opportunities for all kids to have a voice.
- There should be materials for kids to share their voice in different ways through the spoken word, written word, photography, videography, and other art and music venues.
- It should be multi-age so the perspectives from different age groups can be shared.
- The role of the adults and educators in such a setting would be that of active listener and a witness not a teacher nor advice giver.
- I believe it can be done virtually with a moderator who censures comments and artifacts that do not meet the above criteria.
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
The concert hall at the Syndey Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 37,000 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 14 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.