Sunday, May 24, 2009

Pressure for "innovative" teaching in colleges

This past week, on three separate occasions, three college professor friends of mine recounted how their respective universities have recently heightened scrutiny of classroom teaching methods. Part of this involves professors filling out forms describing and justifying their teaching strategies.

It turns out that some teaching strategies are preferable to others: namely, "innovative" ones.

It turns out, furthermore, that some strategies are inherently more "innovative" than others: namely, Constructivist ones.

Thus, to increase their chances for tenure, or, once tenured, for salary hikes, professors must use the same "innovative" teaching techniques that have become the norm in more and more grade schools around the country: hands-on, student-centered, cooperative learning.

Does this indicate an unprecedented influence of education schools over the universities that house them, or does it reflect the needs of Constructivist high school graduates, who no longer know how to listen to lectures and work independently?


Anonymous said...

Ask your counterparts to define constructivism? Is there an anti-constructivism?

My hunch is they haven't bothered to read Vygotsky. The first person who raises their hand and claims to be a 'constructivist' would probably be an eejit from the math reform movement that doesn't know squat. Ever hear of didactic calculas?

If it smells like a witchhunt, then it probably is one. Try writing a constructivist lesson plan and then act one out in front of a administrator who is intimidated by you.

Anonymous said...

The answer is the outcome of a 'constructivist' evaluation is not predictable, whether the teacher is experienced or not. The administrator has only his subjectivity to base his approval or disproval. Your evaluation will likely prove better if you attend the same church or can afford to buy your way into a local temple. Such are the mysteries of Michigan politics.

Anonymous said...

Try this out, being evaluated by an Assistant Principal, former social studies teacher, who thought Stonewall Jackson was a former president of the United States before WWI. Later he changed his answer to Senator. A nut doesn't fall far from the oak.

Anonymous said...

Latest education research? "Mathematics in and through Social Justice" ....Oak trees...Ignorance in and through strength...I rest my case.

ChemProf said...

It's definitely ed school related. My college is on an assessment kick, driven in part by the accreditation agency. The problem is that the assessment system is being driven by the ed schools and social sciences, so we get lots of blather about "rubrics", but my numerical assessment system (based on percentages) doesn't count. They've yet to try to dictate how I teach my class, but I wouldn't be surprised if it comes to that eventually.

lefty said...

Chemprof, Thanks for your comment. Do you have info on specific ed school influence on your college's accreditation agency--i.e., particular ed professors or ed schools? I'd love to get more data on this highly alarming situation.

Anonymous said...

WASC accreditation committees are pushing for professional learning communities. This has caused a controversy at our school because we haven't been able to find a solution without violating the district's contract with the teachers. (This is an extra 3 hours of planning time per month that staff banks during school hours.

The extra time has to be considered as 'donated.' Secondly, it is not clear what is supposed to be demonstrated during this shared time or how we are supposed to keep track of meetings. Its going well beyond the scope of our duties.

According to our administrators, who are most concerned with pleasing the WASC evaluators, PLC meetings only needs to be in writing, but participation is 'voluntary'.

If you did not have union involvement, teachers would more than likely be the victims of any reform movement.

Talking to ACLU members, California is a unique state. I don't like generalizing, but I'm paraphrasing other people (Latinos) who are in law enforcement.

CA is a leader in demographic trends and if you disagree then you should look at crime statistics by state. California is a progressive state; its leaders understand that diversity has to be addressed in a constructive, pragmatic, pro-active manner.

I would much rather work in California as an educator than in Washington state. It is vital that our public schools work for everyone.

Anonymous said...

I'm the great aunt of a very bright 18yr old. He started local community college because money is tight in his family. There's a program that allows the student to go free if they have a high SAT score and good grades.

The problem is that he seemed to be suffering at the community college and dropped out before the end of the first semester. He said that it was a waste for him and he wanted to study music. He's a left brainer and several members of his father's family are geniuses He's now working 2 days at a ice cream stand.

I think he needs to go to a college with kindred spirits. Perhaps study music as a minor. The problem is his finacial situation. It there a resource to find schools where left brainers are comfortable and have classes that appeal to them? He needs help in a hurry because he's headed in the wrong direction. Thanks

Katharine Beals said...


I don't know of resources specifically for helping left-brainers go to college, but I did come across this grant announcement, which includes a grant for students planning to major in high demand fields like science and technology.

as for specific colleges suitable for left-brainers, science and engineering focused schools like MIT, RPI, Carnegie Mellon and Cal Tech are good bets, and I'm guessing that most of not all of these places have music programs as well.

Hope this helps!