Sunday, September 5, 2010

Create “Intrinsically Motivated Lifelong Learners,” Not College-Bound Test Takers

The current American education system creates children capable of regurgitating what has already been discovered (particularly the discoveries of Western White men). To be successful in our system, students need to attend college. In order to prepare for college, young students must become proficient at mastering the routine of memorizing facts, formats, theories, processes, vocabulary, and formulas which are monitored through standardized assessments. After earning high grade point averages and scoring highly on the entry-exams, students are accepted into colleges where they read literature and scholarly texts, listen to lectures from scholars, and write papers which are only valid if they are filled with citations of experts’ ideas. Upon graduation, students are handed a diploma as proof that they have mastered the routine. This entire process ignores the successes of non-college educated people, such as Walt Disney, and the findings of psychologists, such as Jean Piaget.

Even teachers must follow this process, since our education system is rooted in a monolithic model of instruction and learning. Though future teachers examine learning theories, such as behaviorism, constructivism, and cognitivism, they still memorize content to pass standardized multiple choice and written response exams to earn a credential. However, they are never objectively required to demonstrate the ability to engage with students, coworkers or parents; create short and long term plans; manage a classroom; or actually implement lessons built around the learning theories they were required to study. The most basic requirement of becoming a teacher is showing mastery of the learning system and academic content—not demonstrating an ability to teach.

The tradition of respecting those who have become encyclopedias of knowledge has allowed the masters to control the education system. Though we know that a truly educated person does not need a diploma, such as William Shakespeare, the current system is managed by those with diplomas. As a result, the “creative and innovative minds” Jean Piaget encourages educators to create are only encouraged to express themselves through occasional standards-based projects (Ccaldero, 2007).

Looking back at my undergraduate teacher preparation program, I was repeatedly encouraged by Mount St. Mary’s College’s Sister Kieran Vaughn to create “intrinsically motivated lifelong learners.” However, I had to simultaneously create thematic units filled with entry assessments (to find out what they don’t know), differentiated instruction (to fill in their gaps), interventions (to really make sure they understand), assessments (to prove that they know it), and re-teach lessons (in case they didn’t get it the first time). Even within one program at a very small college, I was guided toward teaching based on progressive outcome goals but still prepared to continue facilitating the routine of regurgitation. As educators, it is our goal to create “intrinsically motivated lifelong learners,” not college-bound test takers. Besides, grading regurgitated content is boring.

Ccaldero. (2007, September 17). Jean Piaget . YouTube. Retrieved August 20, 2010, from

No comments: