Thursday, May 26, 2016

Experience, Evaluate, or Develop

Recently I was apart of an education conversation that included a lot of talk about evaluation. I found myself somewhat bothered by the focus, and I wasn't sure why. Overall I respect the elements that lead our teaching and learning work in Massachusetts. I've studied each one with depth and I'm inspired by each element's focus.

As I thought more about it, I felt like there was an opinion in the chat that learning is static and there's one way to teach a lesson. Yet I know that learning is much more like a river than a static experience. Also, as my colleagues and I develop a naturalist thread in our fifth grade curriculum, it's so clear that each experience contributes to the next lesson, event, research, question, and study--it's a process that's ongoing with lots of revision, reflection, and enrichment along the way.

I believe the richest teaching and learning happens when we take an experiential approach, an approach where we fully invest ourselves in the work, then reflect and revise or enrich as necessary. As we build these programs we consider new research, our evolving contexts, and students' interests and needs.

This approach also leads to the need for almost everyone who works in a school system to be someone who regularly works with children. When too many are distanced from the work, they forget what it's like and have a difficult time working with educators in experiential and development ways.

So in summary, while I think evaluation is a critical step of the learning cycle, I believe that experience and worthy development trump evaluations. When we all work together to develop programs that reach children, we really teach well, and that's what is important.