March 1, 2024

Curriculum or pedagogy?

Author: Clark
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In a conversation today, I mentioned that previously I’ve thought that perhaps the best next ‘man in the moon’ project would be to put an entire K12 curriculum up online. And, I’ve also thought that the only way to really fix things is to train trainers of teachers to learn to facilitate learning around meaningful activity. And, of course, both are needed. What am I thinking?

So, there are huge gaps in the ways in which folks have access to learning. For example, I worked on a project that was trying to develop some K12 curricula online, to provide support for learners in HS that might not have sufficiently capable learners. The project had started with advanced learners, but recognized that wasn’t the only gap. And this is in California!  So I have argued for a massive project, but using advanced curricula and pedagogy.

And, at the other end, as I spoke at a conference looking to talk about improving education in India. There, they have a much bigger need for good teachers than they can reach with their education schools. I was arguing for a viral teacher prep. The idea being not just to train teachers, but train the trainers of those teachers. Then the training could go viral, as just teaching teachers wouldn’t go fast enough.

And both are right, and not enough. In the conversation, I resurrected both points and am now reflecting how they interact. The simple fact is that we need a better curriculum and a better pedagogy. As Roger Schank rightly points out, things like the quadratic equation are nuts to keep in a K12 curricula. The fact is that our curricula came from before the  Industrial Age and is barely adequate there. Yet we’re in an Information Age. And our pedagogy is aligned to tests, not to learning nor doing. We should be equipping kids with actionable knowledge to make meaningful decisions in their lives, not with arbitrary and abstract knowledge that isn’t likely to transfer.

And, of course, even if we did have such a curriculum online, we’d need teachers who could facilitate learning in this way. And that’s a barrier not just in India. The point being that most of the world is suffering with bad curricula and pedagogy. How do we make this change.

And I don’t have an answer. I think we should put both online, and support on the ground. We need that content, available through mobile to reach beyond the developed world, and we need the facilitators. They can be online, as I think about it, but they need to understand the context on the ground if they’re not there. They are context-specific necessities. And this is a massive problem.

Principle says: start small and scale. There are institutions doing at least parts of this, but scaling is a barrier. And again, I have no immediate solution other than a national (or international) initiative. We don’t want just one without the other. I don’t want teachers facilitating the old failed curricula, and I don’t want current pedagogies working on the new curricula. (And I shudder at the thought of a pre-college test in the old style trying to assess this new model!) I welcome your thoughts!

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