Jun 12th, 2008 by Cathy Nelson
I’ve been reading in different places (Blue Skunk, Leader Talk, Dangerously Irrelevant, just to name a few) about how k12 education has such a stronghold on tradition, despite evidence that tradition is holding us back.
Examples that come to mind:
- 9 month calendar instead of year-round school
- Textbook driven courses
- Curriculum driven test scores
- Students still required to have paper and pencil
- Rows in the classroom that face the teacherBoard at the front of the room
- Teacher imparts knowledge on studen
- Mastery is demonstrated only through testing
- Grades decide success (data driven decision making rules)
- Computer labs have rows of tables with computers side by side and numbered, all facing the front of the room where a teacher may lead instruction
I even see much of tradition affecting my context – the library:
- Gatekeeper of books
- The need to scan every book out of place for an “in-library use” so circ stats support keeping the library
- Books constantly straight and even, almost pristine and untouched.
- Labels to say checkout, don’t check out, read me, you can’t read me in their own special way
- Heavy emphasis on literacy and reading programs, with little emphasis on literacy of the digital side.
So what signs would tell a different story? Even when I visited the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia, without the students there, I would have suspected a traditional school. The only difference I saw were in the ways of the learning, where I saw tables instead of desks, laptops instead of textbooks, groups of varying sizes in each class, some appearing on task, others seemingly off. Evidence of project based learning. But the difference here was the students seemed to be learning despite their focus or lack of focus on the teacher.
What characteristics help identify a more progressive school setting? The human factor and their actions can say it all. Our schools for the most part continue to be designed in the traditional sense. A new, first time opening school in most areas will still have desks for kids, desks for teachers, boards in the room, and depending on the wealth of the location, some technology including projectors, interactive white boards, and other gadgets. But what sets apart a traditional from a progressive school in ideas and thinking is still the human factor.
I sure wish more of the human factor would join the ranks of progressive thinking in K12 education. I am tired of tradition and feeling behind.
Image: ‘Ecological consequences‘
Image: ‘final exam‘