Tuesday, April 6, 2010

From See Saw to Balance Beam

Lately I've been feeling a bit conflicted.

I hear some people write very eloquently about the power of data. If we collect good data on our students, we can use that data to help inform instruction. We will make sure that every student gets the instruction they need. They talk about common formative assessments. They talk about personalizing education.

I hear others write equally eloquently about the fact that easy access to information changes how and what we teach drastically. They talk about constructivism and project based learning. They talk about the importance of creativity and design. They talk about deconstructing curriculum and focusing on skills instead of content.

And me? I feel like a see saw. One day I'm on the data bandwagon. The next day I'm a hardcore constructivist. And I often have a hard time reconciling these two notions. On my data days, I'm thinking about standards, assessments, how my instruction ties into the curriculum. On my constructivist days, I'm thinking about real life application, problem solving, and collaboration.

Up... down... up... down...

I feel an increasing need to move from a see saw to a balance beam. I need to walk the fine line between these two seemingly divergent concepts. The fact of the matter is, they can both work, but not alone. If we focus only on data, we get bogged down by too many assessments. We focus so much on WHAT we teach that we forget about the importance of inquiry and teaching our students HOW to learn. If we focus only on constructivism, we fail to keep in mind the individual needs of our students and what we need to do to improve our instruction.

So I will walk the balance beam (no back flips... nothing fancy yet!) and try to find the commonalities between these two schools of thought. If anyone has any suggestions on how best to do this, I'm listening!!!

* Photos thanks to: Gimnasia Madre_Matilde @ http://flickr.com/photos/97815112@N00/624752890 and Di_the_Huntress @ http://www.flickr.com/photos/22863752@N06/2788089212/


  1. Boy, are you right about this one! We do need WHAT and HOW right now.

    Convincing teachers and administrators about the need for both in this political/testing environment that we are in right now brings to mind another gymnastics metaphor... trapeze.

    If you let go of the over-reliance on summative tests, nothing bad is going to happen and the results will be spectacular. Getting to "good" on the data isn't the goal, it is the launching point.

    Getting people to let go is the hard part. They would rather be stuck going back and forth on the data swing.

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