My thoughts for the blog post this week were inspired by a couple of critical questions posed in a recent online discussion between education management professionals. The following two commonly held assumptions were made explicit:
(a) Collaboration among teachers across disciplines for project-based learning is essential for real learning in schools, and
(b) Real education and learning should be primarily inquiry and project-based and yet, 90% is memorizing facts and figures for tests.
If, as teachers and leaders, we know this to be true, and we have the research to back up the wisdom of these assumptions, then why, the author posed “do school leaders seldom facilitate faculty team-building and collaboration?” [and] “How do we change” (i.e. move away from rote learning for tests) “and bring real education into schools?”
There are no simple answers, but could it be because ‘real learning’ is not being prioritized in many educational organizations? As educational organizations become more profit-focused, and have to compete for slices of the government-funding pie; priorities seem to have shifted away from real learning. Increased student numbers produce increased profits for organizations. For teachers and leaders at the coal-face, this means increased teaching, increased managing, increased assessment and increased administrative workloads. Something has got to give, so in turn, this set of circumstances results in less time for real learning.
Perhaps the resultant constraints of time could be a contributing factor towards too few team-building conversations and very little collaboration occurring? There are limits to how much can be achieved in any given day, week, month, year. As educational organizations become more profit-driven, more attention has to be given towards activities that meet funding criteria and economic goals. There is simply no time left for doing the activities (real learning, team-building, collaboration) that really matter!
Could this also be the reason why there is less time for learning that is ‘primarily inquiry and project based’, and also why ‘90% [of learning] is memorizing facts and figures for tests’? Testing as method of assessment provides a means to effectively manage increased student numbers without increasing teaching staff, as it is less time consuming and less subjective. The higher the student completion rates (i.e. getting students to pass tests based on surface learning as opposed to deep learning), the closer educational organizations come to meeting goals that result in greater economic returns.
Are students losing out on ‘real learning’ in this scenario? And what of the pressures and demands this puts on teachers and leaders to keep doing more and more with less and less? As New Zealand teachers and leaders, we work very hard – but does our hard work equate to profitability for the organizations that drive us towards meeting this economic goal?
What are your views?