This past Monday, elementary school principal and blogger Peter DeWitt wrote about what he felt were the stifling effects of a test-driven curriculum not just on classroom dynamics, but also on students’ ability to think creatively and independently.
“We are at risk, more than ever before, of focusing solely on testing,” DeWitt wrote. It’s hard to get away from that focus when “many educators are in fear of their jobs,” and what low test scores could cost them, DeWitt added. He argued, however, that fear should not thwart teachers’ and principals’ ability to seek out and listen to the opinions of all parties involved in the education process — parents, community members and most importantly students.
“Students don’t need to share their teacher’s opinions; they need to create their own. If we always ignore their input and walk away believing our opinions are the only ones that matter, we may find that our audience is gone the next time we need them,” he wrote.
DeWitt’s post received a string of insightful comments from readers, and we’re sharing several of them below. In addition, we’d like to ask for further reader input on this subject over the next week: What lessons or insights have you gained from listening to students, parents or community members? Please post in the comments sections below before next Friday. We look forward to hearing from you!
Chris Dunning (@Dunningchris), via Twitter: Something that rings so true after our roundtable discussion with our community members last week.
Laura Lehtonen: As a science educator I am glad to see the pendulum swing to the search for evidence. Too much of public debate and as a result policy seems to be based on nothing but opinion. As a parent, I am often concerned at the lack of accountability for citing the text (whether it be fiction or informational) to provide a basis for students to develop an opinion. Students are not able to think critically if they are not first exposed to media of all kinds and expected to understand author assumptions and use of information.
cfanch: Sitting in my middle school, as an instructional coach, I find myself buried in data. I feel more like a statistician than an educator. But our principal knows that we may be testing and generating data but we are also analyzing this data to see that learning is going on — and not just teaching. To see that he is sincere, you just need to be in our classrooms where we are on a journey to use PBL as our main delivery method. With PBL students, you have to collaborate with their partners, and they have to defend their results and decisions. They are encouraged to have opinions about what they have discovered, and they know that their voice will be heard.
chr: Diversity is a two-sided sword: Are we speaking of ethnicity or curricula content? On a broader scope we are looking at diversity in a global racial sense to find balance and comparative data to remain competitive. Diversity in curricula is also finding a balance academically and creatively. Individuals produce and attain their potential in their own way. A “supportive system” includes many levels of administration working for a common goal.
Nina Smith: Education has two different components: teaching and learning. Just by focusing on teaching we cannot improve learning because it is individual and happens also outside of schools. Controlling learning is also fairly impossible because learning requires thinking, and while performance can be controlled, thinking (thank heavens) cannot.