Too many cooks in the edu-kitchen

Are there too many cooks in the education kitchen? It seems that as technology permeates everything, we are awash with pilot projects, initiatives and layer upon layer of ‘special circumstances’ staff, all with new agendas prefixed by the world ‘digital’. Their agenda is to make innovation more system-wide and sustainable, through 21st century skills, and use technologies to reshape learning environments and the characteristics of “new millennium learners”.

cc licensed flickr photo by quinn.anya: http://flickr.com/photos/quinnanya/3639228204/

Yet too many cooks fail to summarise large bodies of research, and appeal to our hedonistic interest in cyberculture and willing ignore the astonishing lack of evidence presented. We are struggling to find ways to deal with teacher education – and use out-dated methods constantly. Recent research simply finds:

“learning environments are more effective when they are sensitive to individual differences”

Do we really need to fly someone 10,000 miles to tell us this? Do they present us with new evidence of workable differentiation? Is what they say – better than what you do already? Do you believe them – and if so – how will they help you once they leave the stage?

I’m amazed at the number of keynotes who talk about sharing, but don’t – or lock it up behind a pay-wall. Reformist cooks are constantly impacting surface structures and institutional initiatives. Schools however find it harder to reshape the core activities and dynamics of learning in the classroom.

We return time and again to ‘individual differences’.  This is the “great disconnect”. We pour millions into this, and yet can’t find a single hour off for a primary teacher to talk to another – and we know that works.

Pensky (2002) warned that there is tremendous jockeying for financial and intellectual superiority among reformers.

We cannot replicate broad societal trends and culture when we break it up into individual parts. We break it.

2 thoughts on “Too many cooks in the edu-kitchen

  1. I agree strongly with your assessment. There isn’t a silver bullet nor golden chalice. Good education comes down to good teachers, good environment, good parents, good curriculum, good tools AND time to teach each student in the way they learn best.

    I teach in an online high school. We’ve got a long way to go in having all of the tools available to all of the students in all of the courses but at the minimum when a student doesn’t understand, they have me to talk to (email, IM, virtual office, phone) to get help. It makes all the difference. That’s the model that needs to be replicated in every classroom. But how to do it in 40 minutes a day on average and 4 days a week on average and cover all of the required course content. That’s where research needs to focus – and in real classrooms over long periods of time.

    P.S. Started and then had to stop my Ph.D. in Computing in Education this fall. But, in the time I was active I read hundreds of peer-reviewed research articles. I was appalled at how small the sample sizes were and how pristine or “managed” the situations were. And, so many survey based research “findings”. Reality is in the classroom observing, experimenting and innovating like entrepreneurs do. Finding best practices is where the research should be focused not in the idealistic, world of theory trying to explain success or behavior in a small sample study. Just my 2 cents.

    • Love to hear more about your online high school – its something I’d love to do, but Australia is light years away from even conceptualizing it. Thanks for your reply, appreciated.

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