Shut the Hell Up, Dept.

This article focuses on the changes a school district is making in its classrooms to encourage collaboration. The unstated and unproven assumption is that working in groups is a 21st century thing, that it prepares students for getting along in the work-force, and is superior to a traditional type arrangement.

The sub-headline reads “Only ‘matter of time’ before similar spaces pop up across Iowa, expert says”.

At least they didn’t call them “maker spaces” but that, too, is probably a matter of time.

“Laura Wood, a 21st Century Learning specialist for the area education agencies that oversee much of southern Iowa, has helped advocate for those spaces.”

I find it interesting that one can now have a job title of “21st Century Learning specialist”. I might try calling myself that too and see if people find me more credible.

The school district’s vision of this brave new world in which students can move desks around at will and “collaborate” is summed up in these statements:

“While students can collaborate in traditional classrooms, 21st century spaces treat group work as the default, said Cindy Green, Cardinal’s director of curriculum and instruction. “Our focus and our push is to get kids collaborating,” she said, “because when they leave and go out into the workforce, they’re going to need to be cooperating with their peers.” “

Well, you may not know this but I worked in the real world for 40 years, up to and including 2010 when the modern day workplace was in existence. Collaboration consisted mostly of having some meetings in the beginning of a project to hash out ideas. But once things got going, we worked pretty much on an individual basis. People brought various levels of expertise to the table. Engineers worked on engineering aspects; lawyers worked on legal aspects and so on. In school, students are still novices and do not have levels of expertise to offer other students. It’s pretty much the blind leading the blind, unless there is some guidance being provided by “teacher as facilitator”.

In this brave new world of collaborative, student-centered, inquiry-based learning, instruction from the teacher is generally kept to a minimum. Direct instruction is considered inferior; getting instruction from a fellow student, however, is considered a good thing. Why direct instruction from a teacher is considered inferior to direct instruction from a student is a mystery to me. I did have someone invested in this theory explain it to me. “Students have more faith in something they think they came up with than something the teacher tells them.”

Not mentioned is to what degree such “collaborative instruction” is coming from expertise gained from Kumon, Sylvan and other sources of outside tutoring. Might be good if reporters asked such questions, but I don’t see that happening anytime soon.


4 thoughts on “Shut the Hell Up, Dept.

  1. Interesting that the focus is on learning spaces, collaboration and feeling good, which is fine. But perhaps more emphasis needs to be placed on attaining the knowledge base to proceed forward with learning enough to gain a “living wage job” in the 21st century. It seems strange that “education experts” who hatch “supposedly innovative” ideas ignore the vastly superior performance of the East Asian countries in Mathematics and other subjects. Among the distinguishing characteristics of East Asian school instruction are:
    (1) Curricula which are both mathematically coherent and logically sequenced for learning from novice to expert.
    (2) Memorization and practice are seen as fundamental in the development of both procedural and problem solving skills in math.
    (3) A strong belief that “Student Effort” can positively influence achievement in every academic pursuit.

    Lets do two things moving forward on the increased collaboration in this Iowa location.
    (1) get objective measures of changes in student achievement.
    (2) measure off-task conversation.

    In case anyone has failed to notice: teens are big on conversation but rarely does it stay focused on an academic task for long.


  2. You should call yourself a “thought leader.”

    These people should open the door of their box and talk to subject experts and people who have real workplace jobs.


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