Too much content?

This has all gotten me to thinking, that’s for sure. David Jakes responded to Wes Fryer’s response to Helen’s post on assessment. Lost yet? Okay, it doesn’t matter the round about way to get to here. Basically, Helen said we might be spending too much time with assessments and David Jakes said we don’t spend enough time. Only, as David Jakes points out, they were talking about different types. David Jakes says we’re doing too much of the wrong kind – the kind Helen was talking about. So… they agree really. NOW are you lost?
So anyway, I thought this was interesting:

we spend too much time teaching the wrong way, the way that hasn’t worked for so long now, and that includes teaching too much content!

The Strength of Weak Ties: Aerial Photographs, Coverage and Assessment

I think this goes back to Helen’s original concern about engaged learning experiences. And David and Helen are both right. We’ve got all these state standards and state assessments and “cover the content” or in our case “cover the TEKS,” that we’re failing our students. We’re doing a fly-by on everything they’re supposed to “cover” and they’re not learning, not truly learning. Even if they can pass the test, I’m not so sure they’re all critical thinkers because of it.

And again, I have no answers. And I didn’t see answers on David Jakes post either. More of the right kind of assessments, less of the wrong and less “covering the content.” But I’m still not sure how to pursuade the teachers, and the administrators. And I’m still not sure how to judge whether or not it’s “working” without those wrong kind of assessments. It’s a matter of knowing what’s right and what should be done, but not knowing how to get the decision makers to see that…
[tags] schoolreform, nclb, assessments, davejakes, wesfryer, education [/tags]

  1. I think one possible answer that can help this situation is using course management software like Moodle for ongoing assessments. One of the problems David identifies in his post regards the need for timely feedback. We know that is one of the things learners appreciate and enjoy the most about gaming environments: the immediate feedback. When I’ve heard some teachers describe the impact using Moodle has had on their instructional patterns and the learning environment in their classroom, this is one of the main things that has come through: Students appreciate and benefit from the immediacy of feedback they can receive through many of the assessments in Moodle.

    I agree with the point that we need to emphasize student engagement and learning more than “covering the content.” With so many curriculum standards to meet, however, I am not sure how we can help teachers escape their perception of being overwhelmed with content unless we REDUCE the number of curriculum requirements. This is the depth v breadth problem. We know we want students to go in depth in their studies, but we feel like we can’t because there is too much material to cover.

    Ultimately I think we need to consider this not just from a big picture standpoint, which is perhaps easier but less useful since none of us can directly “change the system,” but also at a classroom level. Part of the answer there may involve getting students to help teach content to their peers in class. While students won’t get into the same amount of “deep study” with the topics they don’t research themselves and they hear others present, they will still get exposed to that content. The content they research and present themselves, however, will be learned better because of greater depth they get into when they TEACH the content.

    Enid Public Schools here in Oklahoma has been asking students as well as teachers to develop digital curriculum kits for different curriculum areas, and I think this is a move in the right direction. They’ve even had students at their alternative campus develop kits, and their levels of reported ENGAGEMENT (which was one of the main points that started this thread of discussion, I think) was very high.

    No one has enough time to cover all the content that is out there, and no one ever will. No one will also have the time, by themselves, to develop high-quality digital curriculum lessons for all the content standards they are expected to cover. Given these realities, I think we need to work toward a regime where teachers can create, share, and remix the digital lessons of other teachers that can be dropped right into a course management system like Moodle. Assessments included. Once those kits are “built,” however, the work is not finished– I think the act of getting students involved in the process of creating these should continue.

    Good discussion here that’s keeping me thinking too, thanks for getting this going!

  2. Pingback: Moving at the Speed of Creativity » Blog Archive » Answers for too much content, too little time?

  3. But then again, as I mentioned in my post, we’re not doing enought of the right kind, which indeed would help determine whether if they were critical thinkers, or at the very least, had mastered the content.

    I did look at your TEKS standards for Biology, and as an experienced biology teacher (15 years), I would consider it a very full plate. In fact, it’s unrealistic.

    We’re fortunate that in Illinois that the standards are not that prescriptive, and enable us to have more latitude in the instructional content of our coursework. In fact, we are going through a district-wide curriculum process now (developing a guaranteed and viable curriculum)where we are actually “pulling the weeds” and eliminating extraneous content as it relates to what we currently teach relative to the state standards, so that we do indeed have time to spend to develop true understanding.

    Thanks for your posts…they are thought-provoking.

  4. What’s kind of funny is that our district is current all about Schlecty and engaging experiences and treating our students as volunteers. But we still have formatives, and CBA and Rigby’s and… and… and… *sigh* Poor kids.

    That’s awesome about eliminating extraneous content. It does seem that so much of our TEKS are too specifically spelled out…

  5. By the way, I’m now responding to David Jakes’ response to Wes Fryer’s response to my response to David Jakes’s response to Wes Fryer’s response to Helen’s post. Wee!!!

  6. Wow! Thought provoking stuff here.
    So, the bottom line–what is the answer?

    …….Round, like a circle in a spiral, like a wheel within a wheel, never ending or beginning on a never ending reel…..