What if its all too easy?

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Sometimes in our attempts to be compliant and “do the right thing” we slip into suboptimal teaching practices.

One of the really common things I have been hearing from staff around schools who are leading into report writing time is:

“I don’t get it, I’ve basically done the work for them and they still wont hand it up”

As soon as I hear this it rings alarm bells; if the work being done is that easy, if there has been that much of a scaffold provided, and basically the work being done “for” students, then why would a student put that effort in? What we are basically appealing to in this case is the students’ internal drive for grades. At this point, I am sure the student in question does not see grades as being a motivating factor or measure of their success, or indeed a focus for their schooling. As such, we really cannot expect that providing them with almost all of the work will be the silver bullet for their lower standards.

Upon further reading, I found this from 2013:

A vast new survey has found that school in America is far too easy, according to America’s students, who are unable to pass tests indicating minimal competence in school.

The study from the Center for American Progress, found, among other things, that “37% of fourth-graders say their math work is ‘often’ or ‘always’ too easy.” These same fourth graders scored more poorly than a dozen other countries, in math.

A solid majority of American eighth graders—57%—”say their history work is ‘often’ or ‘always’ too easy.” All the more shocking when you consider that only 17% of 8th graders are “proficient” at history.

Furthermore, “39% of 12th-graders say they rarely write about what they read in class.” That matches almost identically the percentage of U.S. adults with “basic or below basic levels of proficiency” in literacy.

So what is this? Are students just complaining for the sake of complaining? Were the previous generations just more compliant and these methods were useful? Or have we misunderstood “student-centred” to be “student-fed”? 

Even higher education is moving towards “learner-centredness“, and the comparison between “student-centred” and “student-fed” is quite stark.

Student-centred:

When teachers and their practices function from an understanding of the knowledge base delineated in the Principles, they
 
(a) include learners in decisions about how and what they learn and how that learning is assessed
(b) value each learner’s unique perspectives
(c) respect and accommodate individual differences in learners’ backgrounds, interests, abilities, and experiences, and
(d) treat learners as co-creators and partners in the teaching and learning process.
 
Student-fed:
 
(a) dictate to learners in decisions about how and what they learn and how that learning is assessed
(b) remove each learner’s unique perspectives
(c) accommodate individual differences in learners’ backgrounds, interests, abilities, and experiences 
(d) treat learners as printers and partners in the teaching and learning process
(e) provides grades for students rather than success or achievement 
 
While I appreciate that this comparison carries bias with it, I really believe that these are the outcomes.

However, where the rubber hits the road, things change and things are really hard. Education centres are expected to get all students “over the line” and a convenient way to do this is to scaffold, prod, pry, gouge or wrestle until the work has been extracted. The hardest part of our work is resisting the regression to the mean in our pedagogy.

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