On questioning a few teachers I found that for most ‘essay writing’ was an easy form of assessment.
If students could “write intelligently” about an idea (or the big idea of a certain academic standard), they understood. If they struggled, they probably didn’t—and that struggle was on full display in the essay, which made it easier to highlight, conference with students, and plan future learning experiences.
Essays were (mostly) easy to grade, rubrics were simple to create, and the best examples could be hung on walls or saved for student portfolios.
“After all, writing essays was how it was done in my high school and college coursework, and I turned out okay” is what held a teacher on the opinion about assessment through essay writing.
But it didn’t take long for many to see that the writing process –the craft of writing—got in the way of students communicating their understanding of specific academic content. Rather than a template for emptying thinking, for many students the writing process was a barrier to that kind of transparency.
The same change of heart applies to whole class direct instruction.
In lieu of everything a teacher reads and is told, it seemed to work in their classroom. Whether a brief mini-lesson modeling how to do something, or a full-on 15 minute lecture, students responded to direct instruction, and seemed to be able to explain in greater detail what they understood . It also fit with the school’s practice of very specific and clear learning targets, and allowed them to build strong relationships with students, which would pay dividends as the year went on.
Teacher’s opinions on both writing-as-assessment and direct instruction were both based on a limited amount of experience.
Or rather, almost none.
So, as and how the teachers grew in their career of teaching, they had abandoned essays as the ultimate assessment tool, and had delegated whole class direct instruction to literally timed sessions that were complete with QFT sessions and student questioning—more accountable talk than lecture.
Somewhere in their tool belt of teacher tools, there was something they would cling to, which may be wrong-headed, but they didn’t see it yet.
And that’s okay. In many ways, there is no “right” or “wrong,” but only degrees of fit and subjectivity. If you’re changing your mind—about the role of technology in learning, the ideal lesson template, or the best audiences for project-based learning products—that means you’re growing.
You’re reacting to formal and informal data in front of you every day. Anecdotal data, parent conferences, literacy rates, test scores, and a thousand other points.
You’re responding to the progression of technology in the world around you. Mobile learning might’ve indeed been clumsy and awkward 10 years ago, but as we approach the 2013-2014 school years, it might be time to give it another look.
You’re changing to meet the needs of a new generation of students whose natural skills and interests seem to tend towards project-based learning.
You see the cognitive rigor of a game like Portal 2, and you wonder if game-based learning might have a place–if even a small place–in the classroom you share with students. (You no longer call it “your” classroom.)
The best teachers change their mind because things themselves change. 21st century learning is, above all else, diverse, interdependent, and formless. Technology, culture, academic standards, assessment forms, and the cost–and format–of higher education all evolve endlessly.
Which means, as their most powerful common mediator, you have to as well.
It’s always come across me that it’s the great teachers and their great minds that are ready to change their minds. A great teacher never feels humiliated or feels insulted when he/she has to change his/her mind, to mean, that they are always ready to modify their methods of teaching and are always learning as to how to improve and match the changing trends in the style of teaching. These are the teachers that make for a better educational experience. These teachers are not just teachers but also learners. These teachers are learners amongst a class full of learners. They don’t just teach their students, they learn from their students. Learning in their classrooms is not just a one way affair, where the teacher teaches and the student learns, but, it’s a give and take affair, where the teacher shares his/her knowledge with their students and in return they gain a new addition to their knowledge from their students while teaching.