The Only Standard We Ever Need

I have often been accused of over-simplifying things or making things more black and white than they should be. When it comes to the increasing number of standards being imposed on our students, I am beginning to feel rather frustrated. As a country we are concerned that our students are falling behind in the sacred tests to other countries. Yet, as I sit in my desk helping students do math during study hall, I have a tough time believing that. These 6th grade students are tackling concepts that I am confident I was not introduced to until late junior high or early high school. More and more content is being pushed down in an effort to help kids get ahead. So what gives? Why are the test scores not going up if kids are getting “smarter” earlier?

For me, I wonder if it is simply a matter of breadth over depth. We are exposing our students to as much content and curricula as inhumanly possible in the time we have them. Yet, due to the sheer amounts of standards and content, teachers cannot hope to go into any true depth. How can teachers deepen understanding when they are given such a laundry list of standards to teach in one school year? Students are certainly being exposed to more content today than in the past, but at the expense of what? True understanding and depth of knowledge?

The other day I spent some time playing and learning with my son in his preschool classroom. In one of the classrooms the teacher had hung the multitude of learning standards each child was expected to master by the end of the year. It struck me funny as a parent to think my child would be exposed to all that content in one academic year. Honestly, I was blown away by how many there were. As I looked them over, one caught my eye.

This standard truly does sum up my beliefs on learning. How would your teaching change if you put this standard in your list? What if this was the only standard that drove your teaching? In my opinion we move too far away from “active exploration” in lieu of rigid curriculum coverage. Is it possible that this is the only standard we ever need? 


Deb Day said...

This would truly be fabulous--kids would learn in ways that would amaze us, I believe. Think of the possibilities--they would read (because they wanted/needed to) they would write (because they needed to/wanted to), they'd use technology, they'd have to figure out math and science and social studies. And talk about higher order thinking skills...

Great post--thanks for sharing. And sometimes, education should be black and white!

Mark Barnes said...

The funny thing is that when you emphasize this standard and teach students how to explore effectively, this becomes the only standard you ever have to teach.

The rest just sort of fall into place.

Thanks for this thoughtful post.

Ann and Celina said...

I appreciate your questions, "How would your teaching change if you put this standard in your list? What if this was the only standard that drove your teaching?" This is a powerful reflection for teachers to undertake. This standard is the foundation for learning, only many spend so much time within the 'sit and get' model that they miss hitting this target altogether. Instead we need to switch to the 'go out and gather' model, allowing our students to do the thinking and explore.

...and I absolutely agree with Mark, "the rest just sort of fall into place." When students are actively involved in their personal learning process, retention is much higher and depth of knowledge is possible. When you 'let-go', so to speak, you can actually cover more ground.

Thank you for encouraging this reflection... ~Celina

Andy Rundquist said...

As a college physics instructor, often HS physics teachers ask what I wish their students learned. I always land on depth over breadth. Your single standard describes the best prepared students I see.

acinvests said...

Excellent point! Kindergarteners are at the height of their curiosity so exploration is one of their top-most traits. You might be interested in looking up emergent learning and the work of Reggio Emilia. As an organization we are currently working on these concepts along with play based learning. Students should be able to take their learning into their own hands and discover the things they are most curious about.

Twitter: @acinvests

Jonah Salsich said...

Excellent post. This standard is included in the third grade report cards that I prepare 3 times a year, and it always strikes me as the one that reveals the most about the student.

Interestingly, it is only included under the science objectives, along with these other crucial skills: "Applies skills from other subject areas" and "Draws conclusions based on observation, experimentation and collected data." I have no idea why these skills would only be useful for science...

These standards, along with seeking answers through active investigation really should be what we focus on as teachers. Unfortunately, they aren't easy to quantify as they really are higher level thinking skills that don't lend themselves to data-driven assessments.

I do agree with the others though, if these standards are emphasized the rest should fall into place. And this standard is definitely the one that I apply to my own learning.