Monday, October 3, 2011

Learning Patience

In China they say someone plants the Giant Bamboo seed.

In that first year someone waters it, fertilizes it, cares for it -- and nothing happens.

In the second year someone waters it, fertilizes it, cares for it -- and nothing happens.

In the third years someone waters it, fertilizes it, cares for it -- and nothing happens.

Sometime in that fourth year, someone waters it, fertilizes it, and cares for it -- and it suddenly shoots up 25 feet tall.

I believe this anecdote has a number of implications for education:

  • Having high standards is one thing, but standardizing both what and how children will learn with a a fixed pacing schedule is quite another. Children are not merely widgets that teachers simply assemble at their respective grade-level work stations. Demanding all children to meet a certain standard by a certain "best-before" date defies what we know about how children learn. We shouldn't need research to tell us this.
  • Rewarding or punishing teachers based on how a child does in their class in one year makes as much sense as punishing the first year farmer or rewarding the fourth year farmer.
  • If we don't trust the farmer to properly seed, water, fertilize and care for the Giant Bamboo then it might make sense to dig up that seed each year and measure its progress. If we don't trust teachers to properly educate students, then it might make sense to constantly or even obsessively measure student growth. If we can imagine how doing this would hinder the growth of the Giant Bamboo, what are we doing to our children when we implement test & punish accountability regimes?
  • While some kinds of Bamboo take years to show growth, others take far less time. The same goes for the kids -- ranking, sorting and filtering with tests that act like arbitrary gatekeepers condemn one kind of learner to someone else's definition of success.

No comments:

Post a Comment

There was an error in this gadget

Follow by Email