Lost and Found – Educational ideas which deserve another look

Have you heard of “the flipped classroom”?  

This concept is not new, nor is it all the revolutionary.  It is a return to a day gone by, when homework was actually expected to include reading and processing.  Sure they have dressed it up with a fancy new name, and given it a slick media makeover.  But the idea is really just give the kids an assignment to do background preparation outside the class.  Then spend the class time on honing, practicing and improving on the learning.

To me the flipped idea, the confused one, is how we grew a generation of teachers who believe in lecture?  Or did we?  Its possible, but to be honest I didn’t have those sage on the stage sorts.  I knew a few over the years I’ve been teaching, but they were not the norm.  So, if you somehow fell into the lecture trap….please climb out.  And perhaps “flipping” is the ladder you need.

Competency Education

Master a set of skills and then move on. I have used varying approaches to this over the years.  Many teachers site the need to hit all the standards before some test, so they don’t like to take the time away from other possible topics.  Personally I find it a mixed bag and prefer Spiral curriculum to competency based.  Here is a brief rundown of the difference.

Competency Based: Provides structured testing and students who do not pass are given individualized curriculum to develop the skill until they can pass. The pitfall is that at the high school level some students may never reach competency in certain subjects. For that reason competencies must be careful screened.  Not all lessons are created equal, and competency ed can lead to minimizing some ideas which students need or overvaluing other ideas if not created properly. For more information on current progress in competencies please see http://www.competencyworks.org/resources/making-mastery-work/ 

Spiral Curriculum: Provides students with opportunities to pass objectives, but does not preclude them from moving on if they fail.  Instead the curriculum is presented again at intervals, giving students another chance to master it at a variety of levels of Maslow’s hierarchy and complexity. For an example of Spiral Curriculum please see http://pubs.rsc.org/en/content/articlelanding/2008/rp/b806232n

Why does Spiral appeal to me?

Students are not machines, they vary in maturity, mindset and mental ability throughout their lives.  In short they learn differently at different times.  Competencies, while well meaning, sometimes end up beating the proverbial dead horse.  Whereas circular curriculum allows students time and context variety and that alone is often enough to overcome stumbling blocks. In addition sometimes students see things at a higher level before reaching that “Ah Ha!” moment with the lower level concept.

Can Spiral co-exist with Competency based?

I believe that they can.  In my ideal world this is where the field of education needs to head.  A combination of competency and spiraling back. A marriage of personalizing to the student and pushing towards a societal goal.






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