Thank you for visiting the ISU Ed. Leadershop. Our intent over the past few years has been to field-test community-engaged writings for PK-20 practitioner conversation -- quick, 5-minute "read's" that help put into perspective the challenges and opportunities in our profession. Some of the writings have remained here solely; others have been developed further for other outlets. Our space has been a delightful "sketch board" for some very creative minds in leadership, indeed.

We believe that by kicking around an idea or two and not getting too worked-up over it, the thinking and writing involved have even greater potential to make a difference on behalf of those we serve. In such, please give us a read; share with others. We encourage your thoughts, opinions, feelings, and reactions to our work and thank you for taking your time. You keep us relevant.

[Technical Note: If you find that your particular web browser does not allow you to view our articles for a full-text read, please simply select another browser and enjoy.]

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Helping Our Kids Succeed


Helping Our Kids Succeed

By Nada Almutairi
Ph.D. Student
Department of Educational Leadership
Bayh College of Education
Indiana State University
&
Ryan Donlan
Assistant Professor
Department of Educational Leadership
Bayh College of Education
Indiana State University


            Teachers think about different ways to raise their class’s test scores.
Leaders in schools think about different ways to increase their school’s test scores.
However, teachers are hardwired, more holistically, to think about making a difference in students’ social, emotional, physical, and academic success. They know that the most important duty of educators is to assist students in reaching their potential and inspiring children to discover their inner passions to learn and thrive in the world.  
            Today most schools and teachers use grading practices in school courses as a gauge to determine, and share information regarding, test-readiness and life preparation. But when educators focus so intently on an academic curriculum to increase test scores, the result runs the risk of kids’ memorizing a bunch of information that will be forgotten, long before it is applied.
            Life experience will not as readily utilize what is learned.  
            Also, with an overemphasis on grades and standardized testing, children may forgo the development of other skills they need, such as the soft skills necessary for collaboration in the workplace and the interpersonal skills necessary for positive relationships and friendships. Bookwork and tests may supplant deeper learning of things less academic, yet more “real.”
We believe that the perfect schools would blend the real world and that of an academic curriculum together, seamlessly. For instance, elementary students could simultaneously provide a flavor of learning in which the real world works in concert with any content’s core curriculum.
An expansion of student deskwork would be a good start.
Bell (2010) explained the use of Project-Based Learning, noting its use as a student-driven, yet teacher-facilitated, approach to inquiry, in which students could pursue information by asking questions stemming from each other’s curiosity. These questions could then guide them through research toward answers in line with their interests, aptitudes, and abilities.  Teachers would serve as guides, supervising students while they search for answers while work cooperatively with those who share their passion.
Collaboration, communication skills, and honoring each student’s learning style or preference are the keys in PBL.  Students are expected to solve real-world problems by designing their own explorations, planning their learning, and organizing their research. Teachers motivate each individual, as well as guiding and supervising each student (Bell, 2010).  We think of how children, worldwide, could benefit from an expansion of learning using constructivism, individualization, and activity.
This is no new concept to the Leadershop audience, we realize.  Yet why are we trying to tease out a bit of discussion, this week, on PBL?
As leaders, we believe that sad facet of education in both the third world and in countries quite developed is that defined by “teaching to the test.”  And a lot of this is occurring.
Test-teaching/test-doing.
In this set-up, students may learn facts and ways to solve book-and-pencil problems, yet they fall short in developing connections between these facts and the real world in which they live.  When this happens, we believe students lose the value of learning.
Certainly, the value of lifelong learning is missed.
As we think of ourselves as relatively progressive in our pedagogy, pacing, and assessing, are we “on watch” to ensure that much of what we do in education today is not relying upon lower-level knowledge acquisition, dependent upon memorization without necessarily understanding? For instance, education in the Middle East oftentimes focuses on teaching students test-taking strategies, with much of the world thinking the United States is encouraging students to develop their discovering and thinking.  
Is much of the world correct in this assumption?
Probably not.
Surprisingly, education in the United States (USA) is moving toward a memorization paradigm, furthered certainly by No Child Left Behind (NCLB), yet in reality borne of an accountability movement predating.  A movement touting learning for all students unfortunately was derailed by a political and economic agenda that hasn’t worked out too well.
Ravitch (2013) noted No Child Left Behind’s standardized testing can provide useful information about students, yet as soon as the scores are tied to a staff’s job security, extrinsic motivators and scare tactics such as bonus structures and schools threatened with closure, the measures become goals, no longer indicators of how learning is occurring.
Good point, she has.
We may be starting, however, to turn things around. 
We’ll see.
Could an expansion of project-based learning be a nice start?
It might be, if states and local communities are encouraged to take risks, do things their own, way, and explore (as a model that students, themselves, could emulate). 
We know that project-based learning is important in that it teaches students by asking questions that pique their natural curiosity.  This choice will increase the joy of learning.  Also, we believe that project-based learning techniques will develop students’ self-efficacy during their school days, as well as their years in K-12, and thereafter. 
Could the same be said for the adults, if encouraged into projects of their own?
Admittedly, teaching students how to take tests is also important for their future. We adults know that.  It’s a part of life, and arguably a fairly important one.
Students after graduation from high school will face many standardized tests.  These standardized tests are for different careers that students plan to purses. Even our English Language Learners (ELL students) are required to prove their language proficiency by obtaining a TOEFL - Test of English as a Foreign Language, or an IELTS - International English Language Testing System.  Yet once doing so, we’re all asked to demonstrate real-world competencies and soft skills in a collaborative workforce . . . in a collaborative society.
Thus, all things considered, let us call for a more equitable balance of academic and human capital development in our schools today.  Let us use creative strategies of lesson and content delivery to ensure our students will perform in all sectors of life, in all sectors of demand.
A balance of human development discourse in the context of uplifting academic achievement might be a viable pathway to pursue, if we wish to help our kids succeed, from where they are to an even better place. 
Wouldn’t we all prefer this for our children?

References

Bell S., (2010). Project-Based Learning for the 21st Century: Skills for the Future. The Clearing House, 83, 39-43

Ravitch, D. (2011, March 20). Obama's War on Schools. The Newsweek/Daily Beast Company LLC. Retrieved from http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2011/03/20/obama-s-war-on-schools.html
_____________________________________________________ 
Nada Almutairi and Ryan Donlan are concerned about global efforts to prioritize test-doing, over that of student development and lifelong love of learning.  If you like to join their conversation about ways we can re-evaluate how we’re measuring student success, and how we’re measuring our own, please be encouraged to contact them at nalmutairi3@sycamores.indstate.edu or at ryan.donlan@indstate.edu.  

2 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Join Solartis June 22-25, 2016 at the DISC Conference in Atlanta, GA
    DISC Educational Conference

    ReplyDelete