Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

Limits on collective learning

Uninhibited's picture

Where does knowledge exist in classrooms? As I read through the articles I became increasingly aware of the ways in which the education system in the US places all of the knowledge in the hands of the teacher, a system of education in which teachers fill their students with knowledge to prepare them for standardized tests. The readings, however, pointed to another way to think about knowledge in the classroom. As Freire put it "The object of the known is put on the table between the two subjects of knowing. They meet around it and through it for mutual inquiry" (pg. 99). Ellsworth put it in other words when she said, "pedagogy is a performance that is suspended (as in interrupted, never completed) in the space between self and other" (pg. 17).

In thinking about this idea of knowledge being something that stands not only between students and teachers, but also between students themselves, I think a lot about the idea of learning as a process, rather than a definitive answer. Learning as a collective journey, in which students and teachers feel a sense of responsibility to share and listen. In my mind, this is definitely a utopian ideal of what schooling is, one that is scarce, but precious. At the same time, however, I question how this is possible within an education system that is based on grading and standardized testing. How can a teacher seek this kind of collaborative knowledge and how can students feel inclined to explore when they must receive " a good grade" at the end of the year?

I like the idea of learning as a process, one that is never ending, that can be revised and revisited. However, I think that in a lot of ways, educators, especially teachers who must work within the constraints of public education, are limited in their ability to create this kind of classroom in the face of standardized testing. It's funny how in the past two classes I've thought about schools as jails for students, neglecting the kinds of constraints that public school teachers face in order to teach to the test. So my question is, how can these collective education models be implemented when students must meet the "proficiency" mark at the end of the year, on exams that paint learning as definitive, correct, incorrect, yes, no... answers?