Angie put her finger on the crux of the problem:
I like where we are going in this class in regards to learners taking an active role in their own learning, however, am concerned if this will ever become reality in our school systems. The curriculum is laid out, literally, day by day of what needs to be “learned”. I agree the state assessment is arbitrary, however, the state lives by it. Will it ever come to the point when our teachers are able to focus more on student need and interest rather than what the state wants them to “learn?”
This comes back to some fundamental questions about State-sponsored Education and underscores the importance of controlling the language. The curriculum cannot make demands about what may be learned. I don’t care what the school board says, it can only reasonably demand that such-and-so be taught. The imprecise nature of assessment means that our ability to measure with any reliability requires us to trivialize that which we assess to the point of being meaningless. Measures based on arbitrary fact recitation have not correlation to the ability of any individual to apply those facts in a meaningful context. Measures based on performance criteria are subject to the interpretation of the judges and the physical/mental condition of the performer. A “good” performance may not be replicable and a “bad” performance may not be representative. How much then of what we assess has anything to do with learning?
It reminds me of the old joke about the guy helping his buddy look for a contact lens on the ground under a streetlight at night. After several fruitless minutes of searching he asks, “Are you sure you lost it here?” His friend responds with, “No, I lost it down the street but the light’s better here.”
So the conditions in which you find yourselves working — and this is only marginally less true in post-secondary ed — include
- a complete disconnect between administrative demands and administrative mission (“Teach to this List vs Train the Next Generation”)
- performance measures based on outcomes over which you, as teachers, have only limited control (“Your students pass or we close the school”)
- absolute disregard for the humanity of your students (“All fourth graders must know X”)
- a confusion of Art and Science in the practice of Education (“Following this curriculum will result in that outcome regardless of the skill of the teacher, the condition of the learner, or the state of school.”)
So, given this reality, what are the likely results? How can we cope?
And how does any of this bear on the issue of the scope of distance education?