The War from Within
The revolution may not be televised, but it most certainly will be fought within blogs and opinion pages over the next generation. Once computer-based learning (CBL) and online learning reach critical mass within our schools, Christensen, in his book “Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns,” predicts the next phase will be the move to Student-Centric Learning. This is the point where teachers begin to change from the “sage on the stage” to the “guide on the side.” Christensen’s reasoning is that CBL will do much of the heavy lifting since it will be able to take-on the role of “sage” while adapting to each student’s learning style. The role of teacher, then, will be to facilitate learning and to manage each student’s individualized learning plan. This is where the revolution will take place and great wars will be fought. It won’t be the first time that the student-centric model has been criticized, but this time, with the foundation of CBL already in place, perhaps the debate will be a bit more civilized. Perhaps.
In the meantime, we should turn to the debate.
First Person: School facilitators flunk the test, is an opinion piece published in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. In it, retired teacher, Fred Strine, connects educational failure and student misbehavior with the move to student-centered learning. “Ban facilitators, the word and all its forms, and put on probation anyone caught in a classroom still claiming to be one,” he writes, and “Re-establish the traditional teacher-centered classroom…”.
Education requires discipline, both intellectual and behavioral, and discipline must be imposed before it becomes engrained.
student-centered learning allows the inexperienced and the undisciplined to become the standard. Who then is the model for students when today’s teachers merely facilitate as “guides on the side,” leaving students to discover on their own?
Strine’s last phrase, “leaving students to discover on their own” is at the core of his argument. However, in Christensen’s CBL world, the “sage on the stage” still exists in the form of a computer-based or online-based model. In it, the program or online course is leading the instruction based on that particular student’s educational needs.
Take, for instance, what happens to teaching when teachers use pacing guides which require all teachers to be on the same page at the same time. If standard 1.3 must be mastered before 1.4 can be understood, but the pacing guide says you have to teach standard 1.4 today, what happens to students who don’t yet understand standard 1.3? While I totally agree with Strine’s remark, “Most real learning requires real work,” the teacher-centric model we’ve built bypasses students at the sake of timing. With computer-based and online-based learning, though, each student is constantly assessed regarding their knowledge of the standards and they only move on when they can demonstrate their mastery. The student-centric learning model outlined by Christensen is one where students still must study and master the curriculum outlined by the state. However, in it, teachers have the flexibility to intervene. His vision of “facilitator” is one where teachers are actively engaged in helping students master the standards.
I appreciate Fred Strine’s honesty and his words. However, if education is to change to ensure all students can master the standards, we will need many more Mr. Strines to step up to the plate. A civil discourse would benefit all of us.
Thanks to Joanne Jacobs for spotting this first.