Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Change in Schools

I read yet another K-12 article which challenged my thinking skills. It is: Sparks, D. (2001). Why change is so challenging for schools. Interview with P.M. Senge. Journal of Staff Development, 22(3), 42-7.

It is a rambling and all over the place interview with Peter M. Senge. It was written after the publication of Schools That Learn.

This article needed some good editing. There are just too many tangents and new areas of emphasis to allow the reader to absorb most of the material. I would have recommended a five part series which would have emphasized different aspects of the interview in easier to chunk and absorb segments.

A couple of reactions:

1. Senge lists five assumptions about learning which are wrong. One that caught my eye is, "Everyone learns, or should learn, in the same way" (p. 44).

I know from my teaching in the library that this is not true. Some students learn best by lecture. Some learn best by active learning. Some only learn when they have an assignment in hand and are forced to ask for help at the Reference Desk. I try to mix my teaching style up. (Although I am biased towards active learning. See http://www.libraryinstruction.com/active.html for details.)

2. Senge lists four assumptions about schools. One is that "Schools communicate the truth" (p. 45).

Dear God, how I rage against this. I am always (in class and the Reference Desk) challenging students about what they think is true. I do this in a way that makes them think harder about an issue in ways they haven't before. I can and do play the devil's advocate for both right and left wing view points. (Which confuses students when they see me take differing views on the same topic in the same class. Although I will never take an anti-American point of view on anything. I have my limits.)

Teachers and librarians are not just fountains of knowledge who open up the heads of students and transfer what we know. This is just one aspect of what we do. The main goal is to make the student compentent thinkers who can speak and write coherently because they are knowledgable, they know how to rationally think about an issue, and they know how to look up reliable information.

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