Recently in Jo Boaler's book, Mathematical Mindsets, she cites research that demonstrates tracking does not support equity in schools. As I read this, it made me think deeply about the tracking I'm about to partake in with regard to math groups.
On one hand, I like the idea of students attending classes that move at a pace that fits their learning style, yet on the other hand I don't want to send the message that some can learn math better than others. And I don't want to deny students the opportunity to work with a diverse group of students with regard to learning style and developmental placement in math because I know we all profit from working with multiple styles of learners. Yet, I also know that some students really like to move fast and deep with math and sometimes those students get frustrated in class when the pace is too slow or possibly shallow in comparison to their interests.
What's a teacher or a school or a system to do?
I think that it's best to have a good process in place when it comes to discovering and responding to new research.
First, it's important to identify needs, challenges, and desires--what do the students, families, educators, leaders, and community deem worthwhile, important and necessary to make schools better. It's also important to regularly read about what's happening in education. The questions and points culled from this questioning, analysis, and reading should be readily shared in some kind of ongoing idea, question, and information stream online--a stream that's open to all invested stakeholders in a school system including students, families, educators, leaders, and community members. The stream could include the share and a place for follow-up commentary and questions.
Next, what is your own, your school's, and your system's research and development plan? Who and how is research done, and then how is that research discussed and disseminated to all stakeholders including students, family members, educators, leaders, and community members? As you know I'm a big fan of regular, transparent share when it comes to all things learning. I believe that research, learning, sharing, and decision making is best if it's inclusive and readily shared. I think that continual, ongoing systems in this regard support dynamic learning/teaching organizations. At the helm of this effort is research and development. Hence, I believe that a system with these processes might work:
- When people learn, they share. There could possibly be a transparent, open forum for share that includes protocols such as how to cite the information and where to share it.
- There is a space for response and commentary. Hence once the new information is shared, others can add on, comment, or ask questions.
- Designated teams work together to analyze the share and possibly look at ways to update systems in relation to new information.
- The learning/teaching team is invited to comment on updates and perhaps even vote or reach consensus on change and updates.
This could be a valuable system of positive proactive change, a system not unlike what IDEO is doing right now with some its online idea exchange and development.
New ideas, however, require testing. To simply analyze research and make decisions without a testing or trial process is incomplete. Hence if an individual, school, or system deems an idea worth trying, then perhaps they invite educators to try out the idea and report back. Once again, like the research share stage, there could be a format and protocol for reporting out. Perhaps there is a template that a teacher follows including a synopsis of the trial, videotaped examples of the trial in action, evidence, data, and a summary of results. Again, when shared, there could be space for commentary, questions, and additional information.
There is also a need to reflect and revise about the big picture. As these systems of research, share, trial, and presentation occur, an individual, school, or system has to stop now and then to reflect about the big picture with questions such as the following:
- What new research came to our collective attention this year?
- Which of these research points made it to trial?
- What trials proved successful and how can we fine tune that approach and extend it to other students, teachers, classrooms, and schools?
- What gaps, needs, and challenges were not addressed with this year's efforts? What's still outstanding, and how can we find individuals who will research and develop approaches to meet those needs?
- How is this research and development, innovation stream working? What protocols and efforts serve us well and what does not serve us well?
- How are we communicating? Is the communication inclusive, transparent, honest, and regular? Do we have roadblocks to fluid, transparent share? Is every team sharing out their efforts, analysis, and plans? How can we better our communication to serve our clients (students) better?
As systems update to meet the wonderful resources available today, we will find that we're better able to embed new research that makes a difference steadily into our schools to effect a better education for every child.
What would you add to this? How are you currently employing vital streams of ideas, research and development, trials, analysis, and vision setting? Why does this matter?
This article relates to ready use of good research.
This article relates to ready use of good research.