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School System on Trial

Homepage Forums Brain-Based Learning Q&A School System on Trial

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    • #72403
      Lisa Baker

      I am sure many of you are familiar with this “viral “video ( It is a 6 min, rap-style review of how our school system evaluates all students and talents with one measuring device. Most of us have heard the story of “the Animal School” in which different creatures are evaluating the same regardless of ability (ie having a fish climb a tree). This is a modern version of this same tale. He points out that while most of the devices we use daily: phones and cars have changed in the last 150 years, schooling and classrooms have changed very little. Even with our better understanding of the brain and how we learn, schools are structure and look very much the same. We bring up some very valid points regarding teaching students, treating teachers and standardized testing. While it probably will do little to “raise test scores”, I hope that videos like these will become a conversation starter. Changing “the system” can only begin with discussions such as these. As pointed out in the video: “Students are only 20% of the population but 100% of our future.”

    • #72628


      We shared this video with some teachers in our area. It definitely pushes us on what are we valuing and how we are practicing. The dialogue that we have around the changing classroom environment rises to the top of our cabinet meetings. I am teaching a doctoral class called Personalization of Education. We use the text Make Learning Personal by Bray and McClaskey (2016). The conversations that we have within the class are thought-provoking and drive us to the conclusion of this video. The majority of the class centers on what paths we need to take to move forward and change. The path forward has many barriers, and one of the important skills of today’s teacher leaders and administrators is figuring out how to remove those barriers.

      The need to retool and change sounds easy, but we all know it is not. Often, people like change as long as they are the ones in charge of it. Some of the systemic changes that the video purports are 2nd order changes that require plenty of planning, training, and slow implementation with a plethora of supports for the adults in the organization and for the parents of the students. If you think about what we know about stress, stressed out teachers underperform those teachers who are healthier in mind/body/spirit. So, I think that we have to approach the topic of change systematically and avoid the haphazard approach to randomized acts of improvement.

      I would argue for the use of Eric Jensen’s book, Poor Students, Rich Teaching (2016). If teachers have the four mindsets that he explains, then we are not caught in the downward spiral of killing free thought. We can concentrate on developing good mindsets at the administrator, teacher, and student levels. The practices within the school will shift to embrace those aspects of creativity, spark, grit, perseverance, and more. The old and new phone still deliver the basic function—communication. Schools of yesteryear and today still deliver the basic function—cognition. As we embrace new delivery systems, growth mindsets, empathy, strong relationships, and, and, and…then we will move further and further away from yesterday’s factory model of education.

      I’d recommend both of these texts and read them side by side. You truly can’t do one without shifting the cultural mindsets in the organization. I also like to use Doug Lemov’s work and Hattie’s work. Teachers find both of these resources easily graspable.

      I’d like to hear more of what you see in classrooms around where you are. What are the success that you’ve experienced?

      One success in a high-poverty school in our area had to do with becoming an asset based system instead of the old paradigm of deficit based. It was not an easy switch for teachers to make since the culture was so engrained. They are still in their evolution, but overall things are more positive and achievement seems to be rising.

    • #80979

      I think the hardest thing to do is to balance accountability and good teaching. If test prep still gets students to pass the test, we will continue to see this kid of teaching as long as high stake testing is present. Like Dr. Craig mentioned, it is about changing the mindset of all stakeholders, teachers, principals, central office administrators and even the community. We all need to understand that real teaching is not just about doing well in tests. I see the pressure that is placed on principals, therefore on teachers and finally on kids to do well on standardized tests. Where is our balance? Where is our responsibility as educators to provide the best educational opportunities to ALL students?

    • #81323

      No doubt we are living a time of transition in the school system. Throughout history, every society has grappled with how to best educate and prepare its young people for the world they will face. It’s obvious we have reached a point were change is the only alternative. Education should be the means to reach an end, but it has become “an end in itself” The whole education system is not responding to the needs of the learners and the world they have to live in. Some ideas that we are hearing more and more are:
      “We need to improve school autonomy by allowing teachers much greater freedom with what and how they teach, with less scrutiny.”

      “We need education decision-makers to move away from a ‘one size fits all approach, and begin to “allow children to develop more naturally”.

      “We should go back to basics approach to improve our education system:

      I found an interesting article int the Stanford Social Innovation Review, about the systems Change in education. They mention one intent of change by a Young teacher, back in 1987. The idea was to transform education into an empowering experience for young people, where students could learn the critical thinking, self-reliance, and life skills they needed to navigate the complex challenges of their time. Although it makes sense, it failed. After 10 years it re emerged and it’s called LifeCo UnLtd. There are many more experiences of educational change all over.The transformation in education has started. I don’t think we are looking for a one model to keep. There should be acceptance for many models according to the different realities of the many places and cultures we live in.
      Our current world call for education to equip every young person with the appropriate skills that aren’t actually thaught in schools. Academic skills—such as mastery of reading, math, and science—are crucial but not sufficient. Young people increasingly need to be able to do such things as develop ideas, empathize with others, and collaboratively problem-solve; they also need to have the resilience and adaptability to continue to learn and master new things. Sadly the students are waisting time and energy responding to achievement demands and we are losing them over these.
      I think that we should dare more and fear less. My personal success experience is at the preschool I own. I encourage the teachers to be creative, flexible, forget about standards….. we want children to grow emotionally equiped to become better learners, to develop as potential learners, to overcome obtacles. The emphasis is on life skills not in content. We have an important number of special needs students and have seen impressive improvement their overall learning development. We have followed 4 generations of children moving to elementary school doing well and succeding. The sad part is that they are now part of the old paradigm at the regular schools.
      I’m happy to see there’s a revolution in education and we will continue to see more and more acceptance of innovation.
      I agree Craig with the idea of becoming asset based rather than deficit based. It’s what we understand works better also in psychology. Search for the strengths and build from those.
      Who has other experiences in this change wave?

    • #82377
      Ricky Chan

      Let me share the situation in Hong Kong. We had our Education Reform started in year 2000 and the Education Bureau have changed the curriculum, school administrative structure and even the assessment system. Hong Kong Government also provided lots of teacher’s training and staff development resources for assisting schools and educators to change. However, most of the teachers who participated in our workshops or school-based staff development programs didn’t really understand the “Core Elements” of our education reform.

      In Hong Kong, the Education Reform focuses on introducing “9 Generic Skills” and “Attitude” instead of “Knowledge”. In the past, teachers prepared their high school students for the public examinations mainly by rote training. Students needed to put a lot of effort in memorizing the pattern of the past examination paper. In the new syllabus and examination system, knowledge content are only the information for processing, therefore the Syllabus of Chinese Language Subject provided 500 articles for teachers to facilitate students’ thinking, processing and Language skills. Eventually teachers complained that it’s impossible for them to teach 500 articles and students couldn’t understand and remember all for the public examination. Obviously, teachers didn’t understand their role in 21st century Education.

      I used to ask teachers to compare the differences between teaching knowledge and skills. If we teach skills, we need to demonstrate and provide opportunities for trail & error, and students also need to practice for mastering it, just like swimming. Therefore, teaching a lesson should consider: Safety, coherent, emotional buy-in, elaboration & exploration, feedback & error correction, setting time, repetition & practice (7 necessary conditions for complex learning). However, many teachers reported that they won’t have time to let their students do the elaboration, exploration and practice, because they need to cover all syllabus before the public examination. Either teachers or the policy makers didn’t know the focuses of the reform, syllabus and examination.

      We’ve learned “Thinking-Based Teaching” from Dr. Robert Swartz since 2000. He introduced us to visit 2 schools (Colegio Salzillo & Lope De Vega) in Spain in 2015. These two schools restructured the curriculum from kindergarten to high school level based on “Thinking Skills”, for examples, compare & contrast, part & whole, making decision, etc. Students can also learn the knowledge of two countries through comparing two countries in different perspectives. We visited many classes, interviewed students and teachers, and both students and teachers told us that learners’ motivation was boosted as well as the public examination results.

      There is an article called “Understanding Core Skills: For Education Stakeholders, four key features of fundamental nonacademic skills” explaining how core skills vary to help teachers, policy makers, program developers to recognize, to map, to build, to assess, to evaluate the Core Skills which sounds like what the Spain schools did. I found it’s quite useful for Educator and Administrators.

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