the contradictory discourses on teaching
Is teaching a technical activity? Is it a relational activity? Is it measurable? Is it particular to different settings?
In my time on twitter, I see these competing discourses about the work of teaching. I have especially noticed during teacher appreciation week, hot on the tails of what has come to be known as ‘testing season,’ is softening the blow of the technical/rational discourse with the relational/particular one. The crazy part? The same tweeters who are the most ardent supporters of the former (e.g., @MichelleRhee) are gushing with the latter.
My brain, once again, is confused. Why does the cognitive dissonance not ensue?
The length of the average dissertation from the top fifty majors, visualized. The humanities and social sciences – anthropology, history, and political science – clock in longest, whereas “hard” sciences like economics, mathematics, and biostatistics tend to be shortest.
Math vs. education. Ha!
My Opinion on #CCSS-M
I have had the luxury of taking time to form my opinion on the new Common Core Standards.
There are three issues to consider, all of which get discussed when we talk about them.
1. The content of the standards themselves.
2. The nature of the assessments used to hold schools accountable for them.
3. The implementation of them, from curricular support, professional development and accountability processes.
My take on Issue 1 is that they are a strong first draft. The practice standards are the boldest and most important innovation, since they press on higher order thinking.
Nonetheless they have some flaws. For instance, a teacher friend told me one grade asks that students learn to make box-and-whiskers plots while the subsequent grade asks for students to compare them to look at differences in measures of central tendency. Well, making those plots without looking comparatively is a silly exercise since the whole point is that they make measures of central tendency and spread visible. Goofs like this could be tweaked in field testing, but the authors did not have that chance.
2. I had some hope that the ‘second generation’ assessments developed for CCSS-M would be a step up from a lot of what we have seen. The release items I have seen so far have not carried out that promise.
3. The biggest problem, in my mind, is the rush of implementation and the lack of resources to make this ambitious goal feasible. Perhaps the most fatal aspect of implementation is that CCSS-M is getting put into the very flawed infrastructure of NCLB/RTTT. On the ground, it ends up feeling like a turning of the screws in the already problematic accountability pressures schools and teachers are facing.
Torque in Education
TORQUE: a force that produces or tends to produce rotation or torsion.
I recently analyzed some of the stranger episodes of teacher work around student data. These occurred in conversations that made complete sense in the context of NCLB but were at odds with more democratic purposes of education. For example, a group of teachers in a school under AYP decided to sacrifice an entire day of instruction to give a simulated high stakes test. Their rationale was that it would help children practice test taking skills and really let the teachers ‘know’ what their students know. In these moments, the policy is torquing the broader ideals of education, valuing testing as a practice over instruction.
This last bit gets to the heart of the ironies NCLB produces. The idea of evidence-based practice privileges one kind of evidence (standardized test scores) above all others (nuanced knowledge gleaned from instructional interaction). This privileging de-professionalizes teaching by positioning an external instrument as having more legitimate knowledge than classroom teachers, even though the instrument erases so many important and complex dimensions of teaching and learning.
Full paper here: http://www.academia.edu/3368682/Making_Sense_of_Student_Performance_Data_Mathematics_Teachers_Learning_through_Conversations_with_Assessments
Cognitive dissonance: two cultures of childhood
I have middle class children. The kind that get ribbons just for showing up these days. If you don’t know what I am talking about, read this. http://growingleaders.com/blog/how-adults-are-stealing-ambition-from-kids/
I work in schools where many children are labeled as deficient almost every day and in a public manner. Their status as ‘below basic’ gets broadcast on school walls, PA announcements, and in anxious pep talks by adults whose job evaluation rides on their performance.
What is going on here? How is it, in the same cultural moment, we are telling the kids who are starting out ahead that they can do no wrong while we are telling kids who face serious structural obstacles the opposite?
It would be fun to ask kids to graph the largest circumference of this balloon at time t.
(Source: almarg, via subatomicdoc)
“ Classification systems are often sites of political and social struggles, but […] these sites are difficult to approach. Politically and socially charged agendas are often first presented as purely technical and they are difficult even to see. As layers of classification system become enfolded into a working infrastructure, the original political intervention becomes more and more firmly entrenched. In many cases, this leads to a naturalization of the political category, through a process of convergence. It becomes taken for granted. ”
Sorting things out: Classification and its consequences by Geoffrey Bowker & Susan Leigh Star
In this short student produced video, we see what happens when accomplished adults take the state’s high stakes exams.
Spoiler: the adults feel it does not measure their knowledge or worth.