A Troublesome Contradiction Between Transparency & Learning Innovation
by Terry Heick
A troublesome contradiction exists between innovative trends in education and the need to sell outcomes to parents, families, media, and other ‘stakeholders’ in education.
Experts encourage teachers to implement learning scenarios like experiential education, decentering the classroom, and pure assessment. They well-wisher teachers rhadamanthine coaches or mentors instead of the traditional experts lecturing to rows of studious children. Bring on the tables, devices, and projects! The students’ obvious engagement—and lack of boredom—suggests teachers are making an impact that will support students through their future education.
When teachers diamond experiential projects, they visualize the outcomes very carefully. Many start there and work backward, planning for a range of possibilities, including students who may exceed expectations and the many who will proceed in developmentally towardly ways.
Specifically, teachers don’t aim for students to create sunny or perfect outcomes; they expect the results to represent the messy process, the hands-off pedagogy, and the lack of professional resources. They teach skills through thoughtfully engineered processes and examining the outcomes as teaching tools to debrief the students and reflect on the lessons they learned creating it.
But when many adults view outcomes like posters, essays, videos, and more, they judge them out of context considering they didn’t wits the process and may not plane be enlightened of it. They tend to be increasingly hair-trigger than teachers, and they often express the desire to find ways to modernize the presentation.
They see finished products instead of glimpses into the work the students slugged through to create anything at all. The outcome is a small percentage of the project, but some viewers see it as the whole and judge accordingly. When these viewers intend the outcomes for purposes other than guiding students through an evaluation of their work or making learning visible, the response that teachers hear is, “What can we do to the process to produce largest results?”
The adults want to help and improve. They tinker with shielding protocols, inserting wangle to greater resources, outside experts to consult, and plane fancy materials. The students create prettier posters for the walls or increasingly fluid videos for the website but don’t learn as much well-nigh tackling challenges by muscling up on these restrictedly minor skills.
See moreover Teaching Students To See Quality
Educational experts spout mantras like, “Failure is a good thing; you learn from it.” But when others see less than perfect results, they tend to see the ‘room for improvement,’ or worse, ‘failure.’ Thus, adults in the students’ learning environments encourage pretty outcomes over the icky and often downright groping in the visionless of real hair-trigger thinking and creativity.
Learning is not perfect or precise or pretty; it is difficult, painful, and often ugly. At its best, it produces long-term and sometimes invisible results, few of which can be illuminated with the types of products (e.g., letter grades or polished presentations) that parents and other stakeholders expect to see.
So to impress, learning–especially within particularly innovative approaches to learning–is often packaged and sold, tied up with a bow to entice people to develop positive impressions of places. But must pure and innovative learning be subjugated to the needs of selling an ‘education’ and looking good in the process?
Image attribution flickr user vincealongi; The Troublesome Contradiction Between Transparency & Learning Innovation