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Grad Idea Forum
Explorations of Teaching

5 December 2003
Evaluation and feedback for students and teachers

Summary by Samantha Glazier
Additions, revisions, extensions are encouraged in the Forum


"Doing School" How we are creating a generation of stressed out, materialistic and miseducated students by Denise Clark Pope 2001.

Excerpt from Toward a Theory of Instruction, Chapter 8 "A Retrospective on Making and Judging" Jerome S. Bruner.


Paul Grobstein; Anne Dalke; Sam Glazier; Roland Stahl; Cheryl Selah; Corey Shdaimah; Paul Gaspari and Members of the Board of Trustees.


Let's try defining the problem presented by Pope:
Students are focused on outcome and do not appreciate process.
Primary measures of success are grades, college admissions and future earning
Students are described as anxious and deceptive.
Schools are designed to sort and rank students not educate them.
Schools are modeled on a competitive work environment.
Payoff is remote, (see Bruner) as compared to cultures where the payoff is more literally survival. If member of society fails to learn hunting skills, they don't eat versus students that fail to learn multiplication tables may wait years, decades to discover an inconvenience.

Thoughts about the problem:
We should consider the possibility that we get the schools that we want. Some evidence to support this is that the above criticisms of education have been around for a long time yet little has changed and Pope implies that the problems are getting worse.
It may be that we are not willing to make the sacrifices needed make the changes that would eliminate the identified problems.

Thoughts about an alternative educational system with different goals and outcomes:
"Must teach revolutionaries" Paul.
Emphasize independent thinking.

Define Revolutionary:
Does not emulate teacher.
Does things differently, including incorrectly.
Intrinsically motivated.
Embedded with other people.

Consequences of a school of revolutionaries:
Students who are intrinsically motivated will be choosing topics to study so creating a stimulating, diverse and challenging environment becomes crucial. What if a student is not motivated to learn to read? Some said so be it. Some said they have a responsibility to learn some basic skills (i.e. reading, writing & arithmetic) particularly for children who are not old enough to understand the consequences of not having these skills. Others responded by saying that when it became clear to an individual that these were desirable skills, i.e. they became intrinsically motivated, that they would then learn these things. Would an emphasis on being able to contribute to a community change increase motivation?

When does learning and creating become extrinsic? Anne's example from the NYT about artists who produce a work that is awarded a prize and then the author is unable to produce anything more. Why? One explanation is that the original work was created by intrinsic motivation but after the prize motivation becomes extrinsic and changes the equation.

An example from Paul about why we should trust intrinsic learning. We all learn language, which is extremely complicated, without external motivation. Some members of the board of trustees argued that there is plenty of extrinsic motivation i.e. I am more likely to get my diapers changed if I can state that and not just cry which elicits varied responses. This may be a question of overlap between intrinsic and extrinsic that we did not discuss. For example, the payoff for basic language skills may be immediate but eventually become remote.

We have been making a lot of use of the terms extrinsic and intrinsic. Could these words be limiting or analysis in the same way that nature vs. nurture can stifle thinking about development? See Pinker's The Blank Slate.

We spent very little time thinking about intrinsic curiosity and ethical questions. Ann gave an example of her daughter peeing on the floor during potty training and the question of her daughter's right to refuse potty training.

Last question, What are we educating for?
Depends on the we, ask catholic schools, ask Islamic schools and get different answers.

Time Out.

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