27 November 2005

Paradigm Shift

Ah, more "education-ese." This time I'm thinking of the change in focus for instruction that comes from being "teacher centered" to "student centered." Or, "what I want to teach" vs. "what should kids know and be able to do," which are not necessarily the same things.

There is a continual rumble about Advanced Placement (AP) classes. Some people love them because of the rigorous curriculum. Some people don't because the syllabus is inflexible. As an AP teacher, I have a bias. But I have to say that one of the things AP does well is that it provides a student focus. When I walk into my classroom tomorrow, I will know from the outset that the class period is not about me. It's about what kids need to know for The Exam in May. I understand that this goal is not the only one---I want my students to develop a love and hunger for knowledge. I hope that they'll always pursue learning. But those are my "teacher" wants for them.

In my Curriculum role, I work by the math person. He's new in his role and in some ways, his task is more difficult than mine. They are trying to do their scope and sequence, choose curriculum materials, and write course descriptions all at once. There is more urgency to do this because students are already going to be held accountable (in terms of earning a diploma) based on their ability to meet the math standards. He has had to spend hours more time pouring over the standards in the last nine weeks vs. the previous years he taught math in the classroom. He talks about the "paradigm shift" he's now undergoing as he looks at things from his new role. He is greatly concerned about being able to help move teachers to a new understanding. I am, too.

It's really not about whether or not we agree with the standards movement. It doesn't matter how much we like NCLB. These things are not going to go away and we can't bury our heads in the sand and ignore that we need to do things differently.

A colleague asked me today to help him think of a way to hook kids into wanting to learn about cells...how best to engage kids to make them want to learn about these. This is not so terribly different from what I think I need to do in order to help some teachers with the shift in focus for the classroom. How do you get teachers excited about changing what they do?


graycie said...

Show'em practical things that work. Methods and materials that don't require a massive shift -- I know a massive shift is what we are after, but the change has to be in steps that teachers can master and apply while doing their regular jobs. Practical stuff. Stuff that works. Stuff that we can move into what we're doing now without disorientation or massive extra time.

Honestly, I'm not sure that this is possible, but I do know that anything else will result in chaos and mutiny.

Anonymous said...

I am going through this with elementary school teaching... making sure kids get basic skills without totally boring them, and myself. Actually, my kids seem to like the workbooks and repetition - I'm the one who's struggling. Have to keep remembering that what is interesting to me at age 28 is NOT the same as what kids at age 9 find interesting, or need to learn!