How Much More Will Teachers Take?
Occasionally when we are out talking to groups about common core we will come across the angry teacher who thinks that we just want to make their jobs harder. They see common core as a wonderful “opportunity.” That’s the new buzz word they have been taught to use. Of course everything in life is an opportunity if you choose to look at it that way. I can’t help but wonder, however, if these teachers are doing any of their own research outside of what they are spoon fed in professional development sessions. The general outlook for their professional future is not good. The signs are there that the teaching profession is heading down the same road as the travel agent. Remember those folks? Most of them are gone now. We do most of our own travel planning on-line. Those professionals were replaceable. Is the view of the teacher right now really all that different?
The Irvington School District in New York is looking at the flipped classroom which we have written about before. This is a wonderful “opportunity” to make the most use of technology and other new digital tools to teach. According to the River Journal on-line “The concept, gaining popularity across the country, involves turning the traditional teaching method on its head.” That traditional teaching method is direct instruction from a teacher in a classroom. In the flipped classroom, the student is self led through on-line instruction, often done at home. The classroom is merely a lab to get extra help with difficult elements of the lesson.
The Irvignton Parents Forum has a slightly different view of this opportunity.
The goal isn’t to “engage” students (Powerpoint movies are boring) or to increase achievement (achievement won’t be measured), but to eliminate the teacher as “sage on the stage.” Or, because the teacher-sage can’t be eliminated altogether–not if you want students to pass Regents examinations–to banish the act of explicit instruction out of sight, in the student’s home.
Explicit instruction is rejected by education schools. In their ed-school classes, aspiring teachers and administrators are told that students must teach themselves via “inquiry,” “discovery,” “problem solving,” and the occasional “struggle.”
The correct role for the teacher, they learn, is the “guide on the side,” not the “sage on the stage.” Guide-on-the-sidery is the core belief, the core message, and the core teaching of the education programs all public-school teachers and administrators are required to attend.
Direct Instruction is so yesterday. What we need to teach kids is to be problem solvers. Ask a teacher today if she thinks this is the best thing she can do for her students? If she has been swimming in the common core soup most likely she will say yes. Allowing children to freely explore their own answers makes them better learners and better able to work in the 21st century workforce.
Unfortunately, the U.S. military would disagree. In a report “Comparison of Direct Instruction and Problem Centered Instruction for Army Institutional Training”, they looked at the two different approaches to teaching and found little difference. From the summary:
A direct instruction (DI) based and a problem centered instruction (PCI) based version of an Army training module (NCO Evaluation Report Preparation) were constructed and each administered to different Infantry Advanced Leader Course classes. A common post-test addressing both the well-defined and the ill-defined elements of the module was administered to all students. The hypothesis was that DI students would out-perform PCI students on tests of well-defined elements, while PCI students would out-perform DI students on tests of ill-defined elements. The results showed no statistically significant differences between DI or PCI students on either well-defined or ill-defined elements.
We have also written about teachers developing their own rap song about being the guide on the side in one of their professional development courses, essentially singing about their own demise with clueless smiles on their faces. Or maybe they were just good actors and those are deer in the headlight smiles.
Below is another example of what is passing for professional development these days. The first step in destroying a profession is to make those in it feel inferior and incompetent. How would you feel if you had to sit in a course like this as an adult?
This is from a Chicago Public Schools’ Office of Strategic School Support Services’ professional development session for teachers preparing for the ISAT [Illinois Standards Achievement Test]. The story was covered by Valerie Strauss in the Washington Post.
Once you have convinced teachers that they are incapable of developing their own lesson plans, you hand them a script for lessons aligned to common core. Could there be a more blatant signal to let them know that their professional training is being dismissed? They are not trusted to implement common core correctly. The solution is to have them all read the same script to every class so no one says anything wrong or confuses children with their own ideas. Once we start down this road, are we really all that far from a national scripted curriculum that guarantees every class will be on the same page every day? In the future, there will be no learning gap for the transient child, because every class will look the same, be taught the same and cover exactly the same material.
This thinking is the same thinking that people who still want a communist utopia engage in. The problem with communism isn’t the socio-political structure itself, it’s the flawed implementation. Central planning of all aspects of society, including education, can work if we just get the script right. Once we have the perfect script, who needs a trained expert in the classroom? We can just have a master teachers record the perfect lesson. The teacher becomes little more than tech support or a classroom guard.
Are we out to get the teachers? Au contraire. We think more highly of them than do many education elites these days.