Monday, 13 January 2014

Will Education Systems change?

Sir Ken Robinson has the most popular TED talk - Do schools kill creativity?

He has nearly 27 million views almost double that of any other talk. I have been to a number of  Schools throughout Australia and every one of them has shown the talk to its staff.

In line with Robinson’s critique of Schools, other significant people are arguing for similar changes in relation to Mathematics teaching. Notably, Conrad Wolfram arguing for a more realistic and practical teaching of mathematics.

Also, Dan Meyer, in his talk, “Math class needs a makeover” supports Wolfram’s contention. 

Others like Benjamin Zander – in his talk “How to give an A” talk about the demoralizing effect of standardized testing and he argues for more positive assessment procedures in order to motivate students.

There seems to be widespread support for these ideas; yet I have not heard of any Schools, particularly at Senior levels, actually making the changes that Robertson suggests. 

The key question is WHY?

I think a major reason is the trend to make Schools more ACCOUNTABLE.

This seems to be done by using external testing, like PISA and NAPLAN. This testing follows the management guru, Peter Drucker’s dictum - “What gets measured gets managed.”

However, these tests are widely criticized as they usually test just facts and knowledge, often in obscure scenarios.
Professor Richard Elmore states, "
The comparative appeal of standardized tests is easy to see: they are relatively inexpensive to administer; can be mandated relatively easily; can be rapidly implemented; and deliver clear, visible results. However, relying only on standardized tests simply dodges the complicated questions of what tests actually measure and of how schools and students react when tests are the sole yardstick of performance.”

For Schools to follow Robinson’s vision, we need to address the accountability problem. The issue is that it is extremely difficult and EXPENSIVE to test creativity and problem solving. Until that is solved I’m afraid School’s wont evolve into the kinds of places envisioned by Robinson.