Signs of Insanity – Musings on Standards


The building I work in. Conducive to insanity?

So now that I’m in college you’d assume I’d be happy to be away from the irritation and hassle of state standards (like the SOLs). It turns out I actually missed them. Have I lost my mind?

Probably, but I found myself arguing this morning that we should be taking advantage of the accreditation process (think NCLB for colleges only with no tests and the majority of the “proof” being created by the profs./admins- basically prove to us that you deserve to be accredited) in order to get people to change their teaching, integrate more technology etc.

That led me to realize how much I relied on the SOLs (VA’s state standards) as a lever to get into classrooms. Those standards helped me in all kinds of ways. I played good cop/bad cop and gleefully used the SOLs as the bad cop.

“Look,” I’d say “I know that the SOLs are requiring you to do blah blah blah. That’s really hard. You’ve got no time. I know. I think I have something that can help . . .” It was incredibly useful and it gave me a structure when talking to teachers who taught content I didn’t know that well.

I didn’t think I had that in college and, truth be told, it made things much more difficult. As it is college faculty have far more freedom than teachers both in terms of content and teaching styles/methodology.

I can certainly make very passionate arguments regarding the use of certain technologies in teaching but how could I start these conversations? I’m not a cold call salesman. I don’t chat people up and then suddenly say “I know I just met you but have you considered radically changing your teaching style?” I’d much rather create some content that addresses a need I know they have and then show it to them and say “If you’d like to talk about this or use it let me know.”

What I was preparing to do was sit in on a lot of classes to get the feel. I’m still going to do that but now I’ve got a framework of things these professors have to do. I can look at these major markers and then look at what will help them meet then in general and only have to tweak things based on individual classes.

Now I’m saving time and have a “big stick” that I’m not holding to motivate people. Instead, I hold the carrot of ease, engagement and ego. My way will help them meet that need easily, engage their students which improves product and makes teaching more enjoyable and finally, provides them a chance to show off the great work they’re doing in their classes.

Change often needs both a carrot and a stick.

Now my question is- do we risk eternal hatred for technology integration by associating it so closely with a process/idea that so many dislike so strongly?
Is it a disservice to the faculty and the ideas to push these changes on people who clearly don’t want to change? If so, what other options do we have to create change in any real and timely manner?

Photo source me.

Comments on this post

  1. Ben said on December 20, 2007 at 3:35 pm

    So now we’ll see which motivational tool truly is better; the carrot or the stick. Although, I’m sure that once you get to know your fellow colleagues better, you’ll discover that you can apply certain sticks in certain situations. I must say, I envy you for all of the time and access that you now have in your position (no more restrictive filters, YAY!). However, I have to agree with you when it comes to the state standards. It’s much more easier to convince the holdouts that the change to really to benefit the students, and not just make their lives miserable.

    Don’t worry about forcing anyone to change. Most of the students probably already know which instructors are stuck in the 20th century, and probably show it during end of course surveys.

  2. terry said on December 26, 2007 at 10:37 pm

    Are you thinking about SACS accreditation when you say you see “a framework” or (and/or) are you thinking about the discipline-specific standards? I was just wondering if you had started to collect these yet–maybe in a wiki space? I’m wondering if anyone else is doing this kind of work in higher ed… Maybe I’ll send out an email to my POD list and see what they have to say…
    Meanwhile–it sure is funny when you find yourself looking at standards as a happy thing : ) I know–I have felt the same way. But I began to see the benfits of moving professors to a more leaner-centered approach to education. I still have a love/hate relationship with “standards” because when you get right down to it, if you are “standardizing” learning and, in order to measure it, you are saying everyone learns the same things in the same way at the same pace, then the whole thing has gone off the rails! I think the real end point of learner-centered education will be an END to that kind of standardization, and greater efforts to track the authentic learning process for every individual. Seems impossible–but I was reading about Bennington COllege today (where my eldest is applying) and their grading system is moving in that direction!

  3. Tom said on December 29, 2007 at 8:11 am

    Terry- I’m thinking about both. The more specific the better. The only thing I’ve done so far is have a conversation with one B-School prof regarding accounting. He said he’d get me the info. We could certainly put them together on Twiki.

    I feel the same way you do about standards. They’re a mess. Sadly I don’t see learner centered education as having nearly the same sort of political backing. Probably because it’s much harder to assess. Bennington gives me some hope. I’d like to see things go that way. Maybe you can talk to President Ayers . . . 🙂

    Tom

  4. Penelope Millar said on January 2, 2008 at 2:21 am

    I sure wish my county had more ITRTs who came up to me and said “do this with tech and it will also help you with the SOLs”. I struggle constantly with the balance between teaching to the test (grr) and integrating and doing everything else I think a good social studies teacher should.

    On the other hand, some sort of curriculum to start from or judge oneself against is helpful. It’s hard to design or judge anything in a vacuum. At least with the SOLs I know there’s other people out there teaching the same thing as me, probably doing a better job of it, and certainly willing to share.

  5. Tom said on January 2, 2008 at 10:05 pm

    Penelope,

    I like having a rough idea of what to teach as well. It was certainly helpful that first year. What I don’t like is the way standards tend to take over and you end up with what you’ll teach every minute of each day dictated to you from on high. That’s when things get ugly for me. How can you tell when my students will master X? You can’t and then to judge me as a teacher based on results without any regard to where things start is a doomed process.

    It also seems like the sharing is not done nearly as often or as well as it should be considering all the standardization. That should be something the state would be facilitating but I don’t see anything like that. It’s a shame.

    If you want some ITRT help, I see you’re in VA, maybe you’d like to wander over to Henrico. They’ve got some good ITRTs there (not sure where you are now- but after checking out your blog they’d be lucky to have you).

    Tom

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