MERLOT Voices

Putting Educational Innovations into Practice.

In our current educational culture, the success of teachers is first judged by whether we 'meet the standards'. While having measurable items that can help us determine if we are getting to the content students should know, standards alone won't guarantee we are truly being successful. This morning I had an 'aha' that made the place of standards in teaching more concrete to me:

If I were to build a house, I would certainly want my house to meet all the construction standards - the measurable items that are found in properly constructed houses. I would want to know that the foundation was poured to the right thickness, that they used the right kind of glass in the windows, and that the electrical systems had been made of the right kind of components for the job and safely assembled. I wouldn't want anything less! But, if my contractor was intent ONLY on meeting the construction standards, there's no guarantee I'd want to live in that house. I could have an electrical system that meets code, but leaves the work spaces in the kitchen dark, or requires me to turn on the bedroom light from down the hall. Or, the code-perfect garage is built in the middle of the house. Or, the bathrooms are on the opposite side of the house from the bedrooms, or can only be accessed from the living room or the front yard (OK, a bit of hyperbole). You get the idea. Meeting code is not the same as having well-designed, functional structure.

As teachers, if we focus our attention only on meeting the standards in our classrooms, we risk putting the measureables in place while missing the design and function of the concepts. We may have the big picture in mind, but if the students don't see it, if they are missing how the pieces hold together, they may have built their house so you have to get to the bathroom through the front yard. And then we wonder why they don't really get it.

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