Changing Education Paradigms

Professor Mary Bendel-Simso sent me this video by RSA Animate about education — and changing and shifting educational paradigms for the current environment.

I would urge you to take the 11 minutes or so that it takes to watch this video. There are major implications for how we think about classes, collaboration, and thinking. I thought one of the most enlightening aspects of this video was about the capacity for creative thinking. A longitudinal study was given to kindergarteners. They asked them “How many uses can you come up with for a paper clip?” At that age, these children scored about 98% for “divergent thinking” that helped them think creatively. They were tested again five years later. Then again five more years later. The result? Less creative capacity for learning. But! They had now been “educated”!

It is true that we can’t change all the ills of public education, especially before they get here. But can we do by the time they *do* get to us? How can we help them re-engage and reconnect? How can we at McDaniel shift the educational paradigms?

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3 Responses to Changing Education Paradigms

  1. Deb Vance says:

    This is interesting. Thanks Mary.

    I do disagree with him that the way education is done is “in the gene pool” though. Yes, the way it functions in the public school system is entrenched. If what he means is that social class is inherited, then maybe he has something, because a lot of the turn-off to education, and a lot of the poor teaching ends up in the poorest areas. Standardized testing is a big part of the problem. A lot of the push for it in public schools I believe is done by people who very cynically are trying to show that we should acknowledge the existing social strata and and admit that some people are ineducable. These same theorists (if I can call them that) believe we should privatize schools, and that the “market” will decide how best to educate children.
    In terms of what we do at McDaniel, my hope is that, among other things, we avoid embracing standardized measures.

  2. gretchenmckay says:

    I worry that many students – including our own – come with this whole public education system in their minds. I worry about the point of students not feeling — just taking pills and getting through. I saw in my FYS this past fall a general sense of fear of risk-taking, difficulty in being creative. It was scary, actually.

    I don’t think standardized testing is anywhere near our future at McDaniel. What is? I think trying to get students to work collaboratively, to engage their sense of creativity and – dare I wish it? – wonderment about the world in which they live. At least this is what I will continue to attempt to address in my classes.

  3. Deb Vance says:

    First let me say that my freshmen students this year are some of the brightest and most curious I’ve seen all in one room. They’re motivated and full of questions.

    Whenever we talk about assessment and outcomes, it seems that there’s a push to create some kind of uniformity across the disciplines. We’re also asked to pay particular attention to NSSE and there’s a lot of hand wringing about how McDaniel compares to other schools based on such measures. To me, this way of thinking flies in the face of what a liberal arts education is supposed to be — developing one’s own capacities to uncover the truth in situations and to solve problems. It’s what you’d tell students who are averse to risk-taking — quit worrying about what others think about you! I’d like this institution to look inward to recognize our strengths and build on those, rather than outward to try to imitate what everyone else is doing. I see too much of that mentality.

    I just came across this article (iin my Google Reader), still on the subject of the school systems. It contains some surprising info.

    http://www.prwatch.org/news/2011/02/9917/got-dough-how-billionaires-rule-our-schools

    About halfway through, it mentions the Chicago schools. Unfortunately, Chicago gave up its own successful initiates in 2010 to adopt one of these ill-conceived projects. My own brother had left a 20-year career as a computer programmer and business owner to become a math teacher in an inner city high school. He was achieving great gains with his students– until the city implemented this new program and canceled the curriculum under which he’d worked for several years.

    We need to take a deep breath. I’m convinced that there’s a great deal of wisdom among the faculty — if half of us have 5 years’ teaching experience and the other half 10 years’ experience, that’s a few hundred years upon which to draw — and we shouldn’t be too mesmerized by quick fixes and the existence of new electronic tools.

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