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Art or Science?

16 May

Sitting here having coffee and running a few things through my head.

If teaching is a gift, and art form, why then are we seeking to quantify the qualitative aspects associated with this art?  Can we understand how to paint better by analyzing the colors on the canvas?  Can we understand what it takes to be an artist, by dissecting each stroke used by the artist?  Are educators made better by meeting with others who are painters, merely to describe what we can do to get better paintings?  The creation of a common canvas does little for the deep and passionate gift that lies within.  This gift is best expressed by merely painting.

When the artist is able to use his or her creativity, there is often no explanation; Things just happen.  Following a specific set of protocols minimizes creativity.  Likewise, quantifying this creative process and then standardizing and commonly formalizing what is a gift, equates to gathering artists and seeking to replicate similar results on canvas.

Psychometricians want to measure apples and oranges and place giftedness into numbers, so as to justify methodology.  Education is now akin to “painting by numbers,” while calling those in the profession “artists.”  Educators whose cognitive bent is to acquiesce to this form of reductio absurdum miss the real place whereby education occurs.

Education is not in the numbers; It is in the brain where context and learning occur.  A student learns despite the ability to give back what is learned.  The forming of context occurs differently for all of us.  Some take longer than others to frame schemata and add to it the newer concepts formed, or knowledge gained.

Since we are all unique, and our brains contextualize very differently, there is no one format and style of teaching that fits all.  Neither is there one test that is common to all learning, and learning styles.

In a real world, all students would test according to their learning styles.  Good luck with that.  This would require students to be assessed, in terms on a common formative assessment given across 400 students of all levels, male and female, auditory and visual, communicative, gregarious, and shy, etc.

We need to end the hyper-scientizing of education and celebrate the giftedness of both teachers and students.  There is a reason the scientizing comes from the top-down, administratively.  Most administrators are numbers people and have drunk the Kool-Aid served by other administrators at the District level.

Measuring student learning with a series of short assessments after a lesson is an attempt to secure something in return, from students, that may very well be in their working memories to some extent.  The real test is tomorrow, or next week.  Did that learning stick and transfer to another context?  Unfortunately this measure is not completed best by a multiple choice “bubble” test.  Measuring qualitative giftedness is done best by student’s expressing their “own” learning.

In closing, I think we all know that bureaucrats have assembled a list of standards that students are to master at all levels, to a large degree.  One one level, it makes sense for students to “learn this and be tested on this.”  That is the mathematical approach.  However, on many other levels, we must ask ourselves whether bureaucrats know best what best prepares our students for the real 21st century world they face?

Should not those with the gift be the ones setting the course?  Instead of analyzing “red,” may we allow those of us who understand how red, blue, yellow, green, and other colors best fit on a canvas, as well as what strokes work best on any given surface?

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