Yesterday I posted a reflection upon my experiences learning from Yong Zhao about creativity, individually cultivated knowledge, and from Robert Marzano about standards, the removal of time from the setting of school, and measuring skills learned. I suppose what you could call my “blog thesis” was that creativity and standards are not as opposed as I had previously thought. The measurement of learning is not a practice tying you to a pact with the devil of accountability or synthetic evaluation.
As the most insightful comment helped me to consider, we can’t focus completely either on creativity or standards in our practice. Justin, an artist and teacher blogging for Bound Staff Press, explained to me that:
Without creativity, standards based education often produces button pushers who can only follow directions. Without standards, creativity based education may produce daydreamers who are pleased to never produce anything.
The comments section of the Education Week article included mostly deriding remarks (some very well composed and supported) about how standardized testing was ruining teaching. Walt Gardner has yet to respond to the comments, which is a major blogging crime in my eyes, but his points are not entirely dismantled by the commenters. What he is mostly attacking is the nefarious practice of literally teaching THE test (not teaching TO it):
too many teachers have essentially provided their students with an advance copy of the test.
As it is with many politically and emotionally charged ideas, standards-based education has been attacked through a lot of rote-memorization and repetition of buzz words and phrases like, “teaching to the test” which many people can’t defend beyond its emotional appeal. As someone who went through school during the standards boon of the mid-nineties through the early 2000s, I came into college with a somewhat negative view of them myself.
I as consider these complex and significant issues, one core idea that continues to echo in my mind is that of balance. As I grow as a teacher, a professional, a writer, and a person, I seek balance of each domain in my life. I don’t want to spend too much time at work or my wife will be slighted. I don’t want to spend too much time on my own professional development or my students will be slighted. I don’t want to ignore the good work my colleagues are doing, or else I will slight myself and become insulated. There are so many different modes within which we must find balance.
I’m always brought back to Mrs. Erikson’s class in high school when I think about balance. A sine represents some kind of continual repetitive oscillation. The pattern can be manipulated through various shifts in trough depth, length, and height, but the sine continues. It is a pattern seen in nature many times visually and aurally. I try to see it in my personal and professional life in various ways as well, especially when it comes to complex issues which are often expressed as simple extremes.
How can we oscillate between the use of good learning standards and creative cultivation of learning? No clear answer has manifested for me at this point, but I feel as though the genuine consideration of each idea is necessary to create that answer. I don’t expect any sampling of my thoughts or actions to be a perfectly representative sine. Instead, I’d guess it would like more like an echo of a heart beat with a natural up-and-down sinus (there’s that linguistic bridge) rhythm. What does your heart tell you about these issues?