Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Teaching: The Flight of a Butterfly or a Bullet?

Wow, I just read a great article by Larry Cuban. I'll share some of it here:

The Flight of a Butterfly” or “The Flight of a Bullet”: The Impossible Dream of Transforming Teaching into a Science

According to many policymakers and researchers, teaching should be more like the “flight of a bullet” rather than the “flight of a butterfly.”*  Using the latest social science findings, they are determined to re-engineer teaching to make it more efficient, less wasteful, and far more effective than ever before.  Behind the current passion among policymakers and politicians for using test scores to evaluate teacher performance (and pay higher salaries) is the current “science” of value-added measures (VAM) that leans heavily upon the work of William Sanders. But these smart officials have ignored the long march that researchers have slogged through in the past century.
Before William Sanders, there was Franklin Bobbitt in the 1920s, Ralph Tyler and Benjamin Bloom in the 1950s, Nathaniel Gage in the 1970s and 1980s, and many other researchers.  These scholars believed that teaching can be rational and predictable through scientifically engineering classrooms; they rejected the notion that teaching can be unpredictable and uncertain–”the flight of a butterfly.”
In How To Make a Curriculum (1924),Franklin Bobbitt listed 160 “educational objectives”  that teachers should pursue in teaching children such as “the ability to use language …required for proper and effective participation in community life.” Colleagues in math listed 300 for teachers in grades 1-6 and nearly 900 for social studies. This scientific movement to graft “educational objectives” onto daily classroom lessons collapsed of its own weight by the 1940s, and largely ignored by teachers. Elliot Eisner told that story well.  For the rest....

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