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Assessment, EdCan Network, Opinion, Promising Practices, Teaching

Let’s Be Honest: One Maguire Moment and 26 Teacher Voices

We need to face the reality that our job in education is to SUPPORT the learner

For educational change theory, you can open a book and read up on the theorists, but to accomplish change, you really need to be comfortable taking risks individually as a teacher or collectively as a class or school community (students and parents included). Adrenaline junkies are okay not touching something solid. They like to skydive, catch air skiing or boarding, or feel the vibration of a bicycle wheel going down a mountain. The majority, however, like to touch something solid.

teacher-made assessments, I was told, had a reliability of 0.4 which meant … throw it out. Why selectively ignore that? It was comfort and solid and worked for me… until I had children… and now, daily, I ask why there are grades given in schools? If measurement doesn’t support it in the classroom… if the grades can cause anxiety, create competition, and make students feel depressed or lack confidence when they have pure potential?

In systems, solid can be the rules or policies we build to keep order, but in creating these, we create solid walls around ourselves. This has created familiarity and order for some, but it has also boxed us in and given us false comfort. I recently had my Jerry Maguire moment (“The things we think and do not say… Let’s be honest”) when I gave a keynote at the TLT Conference held at the University of Saskatchewan on The Four Movements in Education. In it, I admitted to my atrocious attendance record in high school, the suffering of my brother with learning disabilities during the 70s and 80s, and how I walked out of a Biology class with the teacher yelling at me that it was not my prerogative to suggest an alternate assignment for inquiry during a dissection for a course that I was required to take.

 

Somehow, I crossed over into ‘system-ville’ though during my university studies. I admit to drinking the test theory kool-aid from the CRAME group during my doctoral degree, working for the 9 GPA, and the scholarships, but forgetting throughout that much of my grades weren’t reliable scores given the assessment practices used… teacher-made assessments, I was told, had a reliability of 0.4 which meant … throw it out. Why selectively ignore that? It was comfort and solid and worked for me… until I had children… and now, daily, I ask why there are grades given in schools? If measurement doesn’t support it in the classroom… if the grades can cause anxiety, create competition, and make students feel depressed or lack confidence when they have pure potential?

We need to face the reality that our job in education is to SUPPORT the learner. These are CHILDREN and should be honoured as such. Their job is to play, be happy, and learn in ways that inspire them. We know they learn better that way anyway. I was told by a senior Ministry of Education official that there was no curriculum police. I have seen new schools that have started learning at the student’s personalized interest level and mapped outcomes UPWARD to curriculum and not the other way. I have seen professional development go viral when it moves UPWARD and not down. I have heard innovative teachers and an entire district say they weren’t following curriculum and were applauded for supporting their learners… by the Ministry. I have heard of science teachers covering Grade 12 curriculum ask for permission to go into the more time-intensive inquiry approaches, which meant they were not going to be able to cover all of the curriculum, and they were approved. If there was ever a time for change in Education, IT IS *NOW.*

I have had the privilege of working with many great educators over the years and this term. I would like to share some amazing blog posts on this very topic. I have to admit that I spend much of my career in the higher education classroom as opposed to the K-12 classroom, although I feel connected in every way. I learn from the teachers I meet and especially from those who share publicly via social media tools like blogging and Twitter. I would like to draw your attention to 26 amazing teacher voices and you can read their syndicated blog posts here.

I have seen professional development go viral when it moves UPWARD and not down. I have heard innovative teachers and an entire district say they weren’t following curriculum and were applauded for supporting their learners… by the Ministry. I have heard of science teachers covering Grade 12 curriculum ask for permission to go into the more time-intensive inquiry approaches, which meant they were not going to be able to cover all of the curriculum, and they were approved. If there was ever a time for change in Education, IT IS *NOW.*

I heard someone say how we are fish in water and cannot see the water around us unless we’re out of it. Time for everyone to go get a towel to dry off. While at it, grab a device to tweet, take pics or video, and blog about it in the open to make sure the movement spreads faster and so we build up a community to support each other through this change. We have lots of aquariums to drain! I look forward to the conversation at #CEACalgary2013. Bring a towel!


This blog post is part of a series of thoughtful responses to the question: What’s standing in the way of change in education? to help inform CEA’s Calgary Conference on Oct 21-22, (#CEACalgary2013) where education leaders from across Canada will be answering the same question. If you would like to answer this question, please tweet us at: @cea_ace

Meet the Expert(s)

virvine

virvine

Dr. Valerie Irvine is a professor of educational technology and co-director of the Technology Integration and Evaluation (TIE) Research Lab at the University of Victoria. Her research work focuses on alternative modes of learning design that acknowledges learner agency as a framework. She teaches in both the preservice teacher education programs and graduate programs. She organized @EdcampWest for both K12 and Higher Education sectors with concurrent sites in Victoria (UVic), Vancouver (SFU), as well as the first online Edcamp site. She is a parent of elementary school girls and is looking for ways to help educational stakeholders to rethink practices. Her blog is at http://edtech.uvic.ca/virvine, her lab is at http://tie.uvic.ca, and she is on twitter at http://twitter.com/_valeriei

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