Saturday, December 29, 2012

Favorite Comments of '12: C T, Anonymouses, Auntie Ann, and Barry Garelick

On All for the good of the children--and their brave new century

C T said...
Wouldn't it be great if Scott Adams (the Dilbert cartoonist) would start in on these brain-numbing "collaborative efforts" foisted so mercilessly on little children? His recent Teamwork Means You Can't Pick the Side that's Right was great.
Anonymous said...
Ugh.

The questions and what my responses would have been in kindergarten, or almost any grade after that:

How is it going? (shrug)

What are you doing right now? (shrug, thinking "please go away, please go away, go away, if I sit here quietly, will you go away?")

Why did you decide to build the ramp this way? (shrug)

What is working well about your ramp? (eyes down, ignoring teacher, hoping s/he goes away)

What would you change about your ramp? (eyes down, still ignoring teacher, thinking "why won't s/he leave me alone?")

Anonymous said...
This looks like it was written by the principal at my kids school. She also insists that "researchers" are trying to write a new SAT with these same types of assessments, thinking that this will better represent "21st Century skills" and better predict who will do well in college. They plan to include things like long essays with ambiguous prompts to see if kids can think on their feet and be creative. Teachers seem to want to take achievement out of testing entirely. Why not just IQ test 5 year olds and be done with all of it?
A major problem with these sorts of assessments is that they are entirely subjective and basically allow teachers to assign any grade they wish without justification. These grading systems dramatically advantage gregarious girls and disadvantage introspective kids and boys. They are also not used evenly. A child who struggles in math class may be given class time to work on basic skills, while a child who grasps concepts easily and needs less practice may be assigned "group work" to help other students or may be assigned a worthless "authentic" project to do. The latter's grade will depend largely on his willingness to work "collaboratively". Attitude rather than aptitude. High achieving kids feel cheated, with a disconnect between their work product and their grades.
Funny how these constructivist ideas are popular in private schools and public schools in affluent neighborhoods. They act as a great grade equalizer in schools where parents expect that all of their children are above average. It also allows teachers to fudge grades for the children of Trustees or major donors. Obviously this is a motivation and achievement killer for left-brain kids.
Anonymous said...
TEachers who actually like to teach will resist this system and/or flee from it.
Auntie Ann said...
Isn't an ability to collaborate pretty innate for most non-left-brained people? It seems like they are proposing spending a massive amount of time to teach a skill most people already know.

Then again, maybe that's the point. Beats actually having to come up with a give-and-take lecture.
Anonymous said...
Very true, Auntie Ann. And left-brained people will not learn these skills through a program like this one.
Barry Garelick said...
It truly amazes me to see how many teachers in middle schools arrange the desks in groups of 4 in their classrooms. Kids at that age are especially distractable, and there's a lot of "free riding" that goes on. Maybe it comes down from on high, like the principal's office, that teachers have to arrange desks like that.
Anonymous said...
The reason my 2e 8th grades son's english teacher gave for not recommending him for GT english in high school was that he could not produce for his group on time (no place for extended time for writing as part of a group, I guess). BTW my reaction to the teacher would have been the same as Anonymous Ugh and I hated group projects but as a working adult it seems totally different and ok I really would rather see content beefed up.

Auntie Ann said...
As a student, your grade depends...or should depend...on your work. I think a lot of students get irked when they are in group projects, because much of their grade is outside of their control, and that there is a great deal of time wasted in discussions instead of getting the task done and actually learning something.

As an adult, the goal isn't to learn something, to improve your skills, or to get a good grade; instead, the goal is getting the job done. It is easier as an adult to accept and seek out help, to work in a group, and to break up a large project among multiple people; because there really is a unified goal: creating a salable product from which everyone gets paid.

Group projects in school take what is ultimately an individual goal--each student needs to train their own brain--and pretends that it is a group goal.

Anonymous said...
From a career working as an engineer at a defense contractor, I can see how very important 21st century skills will be taught through this curriculum.

It's entirely subjective, and up to the teacher's discretion and imagination to give a mark. Therefore those students who suck up the most and talk the most will get the highest marks regardless of learning or skills.

Fast forward twenty years and they will be management in training on the fast track to being pointy-haired bosses. They will have mastered the important twenty-first skills of sucking up, kicking down, bullying, and out-shouting (aka "collaborative skills" as assessed by distracted superiors).

Elementary school is such an important place to develop the leadership the 21st century needs.

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