About the Challenging the School Knowledge Ecosystem category

The table below is from a 1980 research study conducted by Jean Anyon, in which she argues that there are meaningful distinctions in the kinds of education available to people from differing social positions. Take a few minutes to read the table. Try to place yourself into the different worlds it represents.

When you have finished reading over the table, jump onto the discourse forum and respond to the following questions:

  • What do you notice? What is familiar to you? What is an ‘aha’ moment?
  • What might this tell us about schools and our society?
  • Is there anything different about schools now, 40-odd years after this study occurred? Are those changes good or bad?

This definitely resonates with my experiences with students. The disparity in epistemologies of science and mathematics, in particular, conveyed by different schools is incredibly striking. In mathematics in particular, students’ ideas about what mathematical knowledge is and who gets to do mathematics are often. incredibly disempowering and have implications for their sense of self-efficacy and willingness to engage in mathematics.

This all really resonates with me and my school. Coming from a school with very diverse educational and socioeconomic backgrounds, not only do I definitely know the kid who thinks “knowledge comes from books”, but I also know the kid who believes they can create and develop their own knowledge.

I’ve come to really respect the value of student/teacher relationships, in fostering that sense of ownership over learning and knowledge. In front of a room, functioning as an authority, students are only so receptive to my encouragement, but when I can connect with them personally, they’re much more open to my challenging their mindset.

I noticed that the working class student’s ideas of learning and knowledge were much more constrictive and concrete. They imagined that they were buckets to be filled with knowledge. Whereas those from a more affluent background had more flexible ideas about knowledge acquisition. They imagined that knowledge and learning occur through discovery and practice.

I think these differences come from that students experience. Coming from a rural and underprivileged background I can understand the perspective of these working class students. They may not have had the opportunity to learn by doing, though experimentation, or through technology. When your school and community don’t have resources or trainings to support PBL or experiential learning you would imagine that all learning comes from a book and that you are only given knowledge because you yourself have never created it.

It is so interesting to read this because it feels like a perfect blend of the students in my school. We have a very diverse group of middle schoolers, some of whom are from families who are struggling and some who are very very well off. I also have students who have a great relationship to learning and some who can’t stand the idea of school. Their perspectives are not unified. They are from across the spectrum of this chart.

I think PBL is a great way to bridge that gap in mindset. It is so empowering to give kids space to learn through their own experience and on their own terms.

This sounds like my school, like what others are saying. I find that usually you can figure out a student’s social status by reactions to questions (not always) asked on our student surveys. It appears that people with money are able to acquire education more readily and that schools are catered to people with money or status. It is no longer for much of the poor and/or working class.
I am not sure how much has changed other than perhaps we are more aware of this and that more teachers or schools are working to build relationships with all students as well as attempting to explain more to all types of students. However, we still have a long way to go since these are still patterns we see 40 years after the fact. We are aware of the problem (good), but seem to struggle to make actionable changes (bad).

As I have seen similar materials prior, I do not know if I necessarily had an “aha” moment. I will say knowing that this study was 40 years ago is a bit striking; I would not at all be surprised if the date was instead 2022. Class continues to be a primary driver of the role that formal education plays in the lives of students.

I teach in the same school that I also attended. I feel that colors my perspective of what is actively present in other educational environments. I do know that other than a more diverse student population and drastic shifts in technology, many of the classrooms I observe do not look much different than they did twenty years ago when I was attending. I do see educators who are trying hard to break these preexisting paradigms, but in a socially conservative region, that act is a significant uphill climb.

What i notice immediately, is that most of our familes who do care about how their student does, just want to make sure they have the work turned in and get an A. They don’t seem to care about the process or how well they actually learned the material. This fits with the middle class realm on this study and does indeed define our population.

This can tell us that their is a built in mindset that can happen within certain socioeconomic groups that pigeon holes the ability of the next generation to proliferate.

I think schools are pushing to get all students to perform and their are a lot of intiatives, but it remains to be seen how effective they are. As we have not seen a lot of changes in the positive direction on ttesting scores.