Day 58 (of 187) Mis-memories of past learning
Spelling tests. Math drills. Everyone do ___ because you were born in the same year! Yay! … right?
Memorize. Memorize. Memorize. Purge.
One of my fears in education is when people misremember “the good old days” of schooling. How we had to know the 12 times tables by memory and we liked it! (I still kinda want to start asking multiplication questions to them to see if the memorization really was as longitudinal as they claim to remember it to be)
And how awesome those spelling tests were (as one of my students put it to me the day I stopped doing weekly spelling tests: I like memorizing the words to make my mom happy but I shake them out of my head as soon as possible because the game is over). And again, I am sometimes tempted to break out my “most commonly misspelled words” list and see how good of spellers they still are.
And how fun those “mad minutes” were to test fluency and hope the pencil tip doesn’t break….except for the 3/4 of the class whose stomach would twist into knots because the added pressure of time meant speed was more important then understanding so we’d (I mean they’d) create rhymes like 8 time 8 is 64 shut your mouth and say no more! Yet I wonder what the reaction would be if I put a test in front of a “defender of what school used to look like” would be….
But we know more about the brain – and while rote memorization can sometimes work for a short term intervention, I argue that memorizing factoids in order to hopefully know which words to write down on a test does not guarantee that authentic learning has occurred. But sometimes the memory of the past makes us want to believe it was better than it actually was….
The good old days…..weren’t. And thats not to say there weren’t good moments or good teachers or good learning – indeed there was! But we have learned so much more in the decades since – as someone asked: would you go to an eye surgeon who was still using the cutting edge technology and methodologies of the 1970s? Ideations and methodologies need to change. But it’s easy to forget some things: Segregation of complex learners was more prominent. I still remember the “frisbee french” group that got to play games while the rest of us pretended to enjoy learning another language. It was hard on everyone – with both groups likely wishing they were in the other peoples shoes… Retention led (and continues to lead) to drop-out of secondary schools….and self-medication – and anxiety – and worse. Heck – segregation because of the colour of the skin was done both sneakily and overtly and often supported as an institution! Anything to keep “certain learners” away… This is not what schooling should ever have been…but it was, so now it can never be that way again.
In the realm of technological “innovations”, Scantron devices meant that multiple choice tests could be used easily….yet rarely are the tests field tested and every answer written down justifiable as a link to a reason why that answer would be chosen…I wonder about those educators who don’t like those standardized tests and encourage students to not write them and then turn around to give a similarly-styled assessment tool and get mad if students again attempt to “fight the system” – I also wonder what would happen if I were to create a multiple choice test where every answer was B (though my kids have also promoted even more evil: one answer being a C).
The times where “marks were averaged” though really the emphasis was on finding a mean, rather than a median mode or range….if all averages are valid…why did we rely on only one format? I won’t even get into the damage that a single 0 on a row of task achievements can do to create an almost impossible hurdle to overcome (even though some will “drop the lowest” score – sometimes that’s still not enough)
The shift that was needed “back in the day” was to stop worrying about how many tasks were available to add up and divide and come up with a score to assign a grade to. Was the focus on task completion? Or meeting a learning outcome? I know for me the big mindset switch was when I put the Learning Outcomes at the top of my “ever-wrongly-named-Gradebook” instead of tasks and found ways for my students to show me their understanding of the desired learning outcome in whatever way worked best for them.
It is no longer acceptable to marginalize Complex Learners from Normal Learners. Sure at times it was done with the best of intentions…but there is certain road that is paved with good intentions…. All learners deserve to be in their neighbourhood school with a pathway to graduation with dignity. Yep. All. Learners. There is no “magical place” to send them away to….the most magical place is where they are.
Sigh. Just heard a number of people making connections to “when I was in school” that made me reflect that sometimes we remember the good times….and try not to remember the times that we stared at the clock. watching each second. pass. by. (maybe it was just me…)