About the Towards a School Paradigm Shift category

The thing about schools being constructed is that if we want to change them, we can. Humans didn’t invent things like gravity, so we can’t really change that. But we invented schools. Which means it is possible to reinvent them.

To introduce the idea of how that might happen, let’s consider this idea through the lens of what Ken Robinson calls a paradigm shift. As you view the video think about the following questions:

  • What in this video extended your thinking and in what ways?

  • What in this video did you find challenging or what questions do you have?

  • What might a paradigm shift look like in your school or classroom? What would change? And when it does, what is gained and lost?

Add your thoughts and ideas to this discourse discussion by adding a new Topic to this Category.

I enjoyed the discussion of the industrialization of education. Thinking about the ways in which our current educational system is built to mass produce particular types of “products” (workers, “academics”, etc) highlights the choices that have been made and the ways in which they dehumanize students, turning them into products. This then allows us to rethink those choices, both in terms of the structure of the school system and the classroom, the content of education, the mode of delivery, the relationships that bind students, teachers, and the community, and so on. Opening our eyes to the possibilities is the first step to remaking education so that it better serves all students.

Understanding the historical context of and motivations behind how the education system is set up really led me to question whether the same standards still make sense in today’s environment, with PBL being a potential reinvention of school systems. In this frame many potential benefits of PBL, such as divergent thinking, collaboration and more equitable and personalized outcomes are much more in tune with the demands of society today.

A real “aha” moment for me, came in the discussion of divergent thinking and the way that many students lose that “genius level” ability for abstract thought the older they get. Our current school structure seems to almost intend to dissolve that ability.

I believe that PBL has an opportunity to really enrich student learning, as well as to cultivate much needed relevance in education. I also believe though that there are essential skills students need to gain in school and I fear leaving learning completely open ended could hinder that necessary growth. I think a relevant skill in any position, is the ability to work through things you don’t necessarily find immediately interesting.

The way that this speaker talks about the current education system as essentially a destructive force for students creativity and “divergent thinking” is fascinating. I think the industrial model of education does in fact do this. If we go by the “one right answer” way of thinking, it shows students that they can’t think creatively. I think that this needs to a system wide shift in mindset. Just because the teacher, administrator, or school board didn’t use the same path to solve a problem doesn’t mean that a student is wrong. We should be proud of these examples of divergent thinking, not marking off points.

The challenge with this is that its hard to quantify divergent thinking. Districts want easy to interpret quantitative data about student knowledge and growth. When you have one right answer and one right path to that answer, a standardized test can easily evaluate and interpret student knowledge.

But how well does it capture that AHA moment for a student? Or the conversations and life skills they gained getting to a different idea than is on the answer key?

I think things like PBL, standards based grading, and other flexible methodologies for collecting data can help us bridge the gap between where we are now and where we should be. District gets their data, and we can teach how we know works best for kids.

I know that ADHD seems to be so overdiagnosed, but the video really extended my thinking on what that truly entails and why it seems to be such a problem. Additionally, the comment on how we are grouped by manufactured date was interesting - I had not thought of it like that before. Factories seem so old, but the way we operate schools and think of students is exactly that. I think of it as a means of convenience. It makes many lives easier.
What I find challenging is the big how - how can we get it together to make these changes. It seems like we need so much more funding, teachers, community support, and so on to make this feasible.
I think I could start doing some of this in my classroom for certain. I do not know about my school - some teachers do not have buy in. If it did change, students might enjoy coming to school. We would see a more fluid day which could help students overall, but some of those who like the structure could struggle.
Another thought I had is that we could certainly help students find a better path for themselves in life when they are able to work at their own path. It would certainly make a need for new training for teachers to determine an approach to something they are not taught in college. We could lose more teachers, but also might gain some.

I felt the video did a solid job of summarizing a large number of ideas into a pretty succinct eleven minutes. Additionally, it had me thinking more about the way in which students are grouped than I often do — specifically in regards to age. So much of curricular design is linear and the inherent grouping of students by age leads to a difficulty in pushing for true mastery or idea exploration. I do always worry about the risk of tracking students by ability level alone, but obviously a fundamental shift in education would help dissolve some of those inherent risks.

The only idea that was fundamentally challenging was the approach to ADHD. I am no stranger to literature questioning over diagnosis, but I do fear throwing out medical diagnoses as unfounded without competing evidence creates risk for students with disabilities. Once the teacher takes on the role of mock-physician, I worry students are less likely to be believed with their very real concerns.

I would love an integrated classroom. This year I am teaching primarily “foundations” classes for students who struggle with language arts skills (“struggle” being widely defined). I feel a more heterogenous class with additional support from a second teacher/special educator would be a much more fulfilling environment for my students. They know they have been tracked into the “dumb” or “remedial” classes at this point in their teen years; this reality can certainly discourage students who already struggle in certain domains. However, I can’t see this change occurring without substantial shifts into a more progressive educational model that moves away from the “banking model” and its roots in industrialization.