Wednesday, January 29, 2014

And the silver bullet du jour is...

First it was Constructivism and child-centered discovery learning, then it was Grit and Social Emotional Learning, now it's Recess. This, apparently, is what we need more of in order to raise test scores. After all, it's "The Secret Behind Finland's Super Smart Kids."

Somehow I missed this piece (it dates to this past September), but I really should have mentioned it the last time I brought up Finland, just two weeks ago, in connection with those Finnish exchange students. One of them, remember, was shocked at the easiness of an American algebra test and at how poorly his classmates did on it. The other one was astounded at how undemanding the history tests were, at how little homework the students did, and at the in-class projects, which were mostly "glue this to the poster for an hour." She had to repeat that year of high school when she returned to Finland. Who knew that it was recess that put her and her compatriot at such an advantage vis a vis her American counterparts?

I'm all for American children getting a lot more time to run around outside than they do now.  Our kids need many more breaks, and should be going outside and exerting themselves even when (shudders!) the temperature drops below freezing or there's snow on the ground and their teachers would prefer to supervise them indoors while they play board games and computer games or watch movies.

But I hadn't realized that what leads to teachers giving harder algebra tests and students doing better on them, and to students taking homework more seriously, and to teachers assigning more essays and less bubble-filling and poster-gluing, is recess.

Perhaps if we--or any country, really (Finland, after all, has been slipping lately in international rankings)--want to totally maximize student achievement, we could completely replace class time with recess. That would, at the very least, eradicate those in-class poster-gluing projects.


Auntie Ann said...
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Auntie Ann said...

Jay P Greene refers to this as cargo cult solutions.

Finland does well: Finland has lots of recess; therefore, if we have lots of recess, we will do well!

Finns start school when they are 7: Finns do well; therefore, we should start school at 7!

One study showed high schoolers did well with a hands-on project-based science program; therefore, all education should be hands-on and project-based!

Education is a holistic enterprise. Pointing to one fraction of the whole and claiming salvation is never going to work.