To the best of my ability I will paraphrase what was a conversation I had not long ago with a district supervisor who asked me for data demonstrating how 21st century teaching methods produced measurable results.
I asked him what sort of pedagogy he was referring to. He responded, "21st century methods".
I told him that while I could not speak for the whole of 21st century thought on teaching and learning, I'd be happy to explain my findings based on my own experience. He thought this was reasonable.
"So where were your students in terms of testing when you started?"
"I don't know."
"What do you mean you don't know?"
"I mean, I never made that measurement."
"But then, how did you measure the progress your students made?"
"I asked them," I replied.
"What do you mean you asked them?"
"I asked them. We talked about their learning all of the time. And we talked about their background. And what it was like to be a student. And we talked about whether they felt like they could tell when they really learned something or not. Real phenomenological stuff. And we tried different things to help us learn better in light of these conversations. Sometimes I came up with these ideas, sometimes the kids came up with the ideas. Sometimes things seemed to work, sometimes they didn't. Sometimes things we'd thought worked turned out later to not have worked so well. And sometimes things which in the moment we thought were useless turned out being rather helpful."
"But how do you measure whether or not those things work?"
"Well, only by indirect means. In other words, by thinking about the value and relevance of exploration and inquiry to our community of learners rather than try to adhere to any objective of measurement defined by something out there that ostensibly defines an ideal of learning that applies to everyone all at the same time."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean that if the sight of a mountain compels you to climb it, it really doesn't matter how many feet tall it is."
We've spoken of education for so long as though it is representative of an objective academic truth that we've missed the fact that for the majority of human history it was a matter of survival. A matter of love. A matter of inspiration and compulsion. As often a matter of the irrational as the rational.
The best advice I can give to anyone who reads this blog is to not believe any of it; rather, if you want to see if social tech and inquiry based education works -- and whether you will get results you can measure in one way or another -- just try some of the things we've talked about and debated over the last nearly three years. Even better, just get into the mindset of the debate -- whether you agree with me or not. Try things out. Maybe they'll work for you, maybe not; hopefully, one way or the other, it will inspire you to consider that there may not be any objectively "best" practices, only your communities' own best findings in any practice. Of course, within the context of social tech, this may mean something much more than what at first it may appear to mean.
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Location:Do Not Believe Me