Rliberni's Blog – Radical language

May 23, 2011

If we are to be more effective in reforming education, should there be a focus on content or a focus on methods?

#Edchat 05 – 17 – 2011 – 18:00 CET 12 PM EST

Thank you to Rob King (@inquirebook) for this very thought-provoking summary of last week’s #edchat on method versus content on education. The chat was, as ever, very lively with lots of ideas and thoughts tumbling out in quick succession. Rob faced so much good content that I know he found it hard to pick out the best bits so his summary is very comprehensive! I’m sure you will enjoy it and if you weren’t there this will certainly evoke the mood for you! Thank you Rob. Find more information about Rob in his bio at the end of the post.

As always, this topic resulted in a spirited and thought-provoking discussion. To start with, most participants expressed the sense that content and methods were inextricable–that solid methods of instruction were the only route to content, and that content was the only reason for solid methods.
The conversation, then, turned to the issue of policy: What policy shifts would help bring about positive changes in methods and content? A group of participants discussed the importance of creating common goals in the education community–and the difficulty of doing so given the diversity of students, educators, and learning environments. A number of participants bemoaned the standardized testing environment of education, saying that learning skills are difficult to measure using bubble cards. Others pointed out that issues of education policy also draw in politics and money. Most participants agreed that teachers need more autonomy, not less–that they need to be freed up to teach. The consensus was that this sort of change must come from the grass-roots–incremental improvements happening one teacher at a time.
As the conversation continued, the definition of “methods” seemed to broaden, taking in not just the way that teachers teach but also the way that students learn. In other words, “methods” came to mean the skills that all of us need to learn content. At that point, many participants (including myself) moved toward the importance of methods. The idea was that the Information Age has made content so available that sheer memorization is less important than being able to find information, evaluate its quality, and think critically about it. Participants wrote about the importance of teaching the lifelong learning skills that allow students to adapt to an ever-changing world. Many also wrote about the need to be lifelong learners ourselves.
Here are some of the main themes from the discussion: 
1. Both content and methods are important. They are intertwined. Methods provide access to content, but content affects the methods used to teach it. Both should be open to reform.
2. To create real change, educators need to be able to state common goals for reform. In order to do so, they must bring together a very diverse group of teachers and learners and overcome political obstacles. As experts in instruction, teachers need more freedom, not less.
3. If methods include not only the way teachers teach but the way students learn, then perhaps reform should focus on methods. Methods of instruction should help students become content creators rather than just content consumers. Methods of teaching should foster curiosity, thinking, and lifelong learning.
Here is a selection of some of the comments: 
With such a vibrant discussion, it’s almost impossible to do it justice in a summary, but I’ve picked out some of the comments that caught my eye.

@coreydahlevent: They need equal attention. Content is as important as methods. #edchat
@geraldaungst: Need to include both, and they can’t be considered as separate elements either. Integrated and intertwined. #edchat
@rliberni: Multiple methods, extensive content – start with the learner and provide skills and guidance #edchat
@TutorSolutions: How about neither? Let teachers teach, be passionate and provide a support system to allow for improvement, rather than punishment #edchat
@drthomasho: @davidwees I think a change in methods would lead to a change in content! #edchat
@Tina_Barr: In order to achieve reform we need to stop talking and start changing therein lies the greatest challenge #edchat
@chiyanlam: @cybraryman1 it seems that there are two levels to your question. ed reform within one’s classroom (student-level), and edu system #edchat
@republicofmath: Hard to do #math at all without “content”, but impossible to do well without “methods” #edchat
@PatrickatDS: Nobel winner says methods trump everything (title is provocative, read on) http://fxn.ws/isXFI4 #edchat
@aaronmueller: In language arts, the content can be interchangeable, what I teach are methods: interpretive, communication, evaluation. #edchat #edchat
@TutorSolutions: The biggest change that needs to be made in education is to stop trying to change it. Give teachers support/time and let them work. #edchat
@aaronmueller: My end-game is to teach a student how to be a better person, not a collection of content. Skills trump everything else. #edchat
@alicemercer: It seems to me that real ed reform is not going to be possible in current context. We need to reform ed politics #edchat
@TutorSolutions: I’m all for summers off, but imagine what great teachers we’d be if we worked those days to collaborate and learn. #edchat
@ericjuli: To meet the needs of diverse learners in urban schools, pedagogy matters more than content, but it’s not either/or #edchat
@inquirebook: If we teach students to seek answers, we make them content creators rather than just content consumers. #edchat
@cybraryman1: @coreydahlevent We must involve students in the learning process. Teachers should be more faciliators of learning #edchat
@HHG: @davidwees Before debating method or content, don’t we need to publicly stake our claim on a clear and common purpose? #edchat
@derrallg: @HHG unfortunately common purpose is difficult when you throw in socio-economic factors into what type of school a student attends #edchat
@coreydahlevent: Balance in everything. Change your methods, adjust your content. Don’t teach the same every year. #edchat
@maryannreilly: RT @HHG: @davidwees I don’t think we need ONE common purpose, any more than we need common curriculum or common pedagogies. #edchat So Agree
@Oroku_Saki: Teacher autonomy is a must. Curriculum is my rough draft. I meet what I have to, and fill in the holes with chaos. #edchat
@Mike_Prater: @HHG Agree. Teachers are the experts who know the children. Should be involved in instructional, curricular, and program decisions. #edchat
@isteconnects: U.S. doesn’t produce stuff anymore; we make $ on ideas and content. Schools need to prepare studs for a knowledge economy #edchat
@cybraryman1: @inquirebook @coreydahlevent: Don’t have to master all content as we can use Blended Learning to connect students with experts #edchat
@rliberni: Is content easier than method? Is that why it might dominate? #edchat
@QZLPatriotHawk: Outside forces control the content – I always tell the teachers, worry about what U can control. In this case it is delivery. #edchat
@Oroku_Saki: Bottom line: Adapt to your students, content, and delivery; the same way your students are expected to adapt to a changing world. #edchat
@pickledtreats: But if methods becomes legislated, where is the wiggle room to adjust when necessary – to help individual students? #edchat
@tomwhitby: If method affects how kids learn and content is what they learn, I think how they learn should be the Focus. #edchat
@aleecotton: @tomwhitby: I completely agree. Teaching how to learn makes understanding content easier & encourages lifelong curiosity/learning. #edchat
@jonbergmann: Not all Stds need all content, but all benefit from learning how to learn #edchat
@drthomasho: Focusing on METHODS will also motivate us to MEASURE, won’t it? That’s the key to REFORM, isn’t it? #edchat
@tomwhitby: The least educators should do is create a curiosity for learning. The best is to create a love of learning for a life long process.#edchat
@sram_socrates: RT @QZLPatriotHawk: How many of U have been 2 a conference w great content but a horrible presenter. Content w.out good delivery is ineffective. #edchat
@pickledtreats: @aleecotton @jonbergmann Exactly. How to learn, how to engage w/ content throughout life, is more important. #edchat
@delta_dc: #edchat I don’t know the exact content my learners will need. But being a problem solver and critical thinker will always come in handy.
@CTuckerEnglish: Content in many disciplines is constantly changing, so teaching methodology is creating long term learners #edchat
@tomwhitby: Instead of memorizing content, kids should learn it in the process of creating their own content.#edchat
@cybraryman1: “If children cannot learn the way we teach, we must teach the way children learn.” #edchat
@irasocol: Education is the most political thing any society does. “EduReform” is just an expression of your socioeconomic beliefs #edchat
@aaronmueller: Time to engage all school community members to refocus learning onto skills and not content. .. #edchat
@CTuckerEnglish: Students who develop adaptive expertise can approach new info & use knowledge flexibly to make sense of it=confident learners #edchat
@nancyrubin: RT @inquirebook: @davidwees Compartmentalizing knowledge encourages students to forget it once they leave the class. #edchat
@sram_socrates: RT @dendari: good content dies with boring teachers #edchat – and boring content blooms with exciting ones
@dendari: Great teaching dies without authentic content #edchat
@Tina_Barr: Education reform requires enrichment of each teacher’s intellectual competence. #edchat

To follow the complete discussion see here 

For the stats on #edchat participation see here 

 

As ever, there were some great links shared:

@coreydahlevent:  This cartoon…what do you think? Content or method? http://flic.kr/p/9yZqzD

@FNESC: Educational parity too long denied – Editorial from the Edmonton Journal http://t.co/MCC5fHM  via @AddThis #edchat

@schoolsEDU:  We’ve talked about it in the past but more & more professors r using #socialmedia for better impact on students http://clck.co/2w8t1  #edchat

@PatrickatDS: Nobel winner says methods trump everything (title is provocative, read on) http://fxn.ws/isXFI4  #edchat

web20education: #infographic Coolege students : is #twitter hurting your grade ? on #edtech20 PLN: http://ning.it/mvbNxe  #edchat #ukedchat #socialmedia #elt

@mrmadden77:  New post on bringing our professional conversations to the general public – http://bit.ly/j4Vim2  #edchat

@TutorSolutions: Excellent guest post written by Nikki Robertson about @cybraryman1 and @shellterrell – http://bit.ly/krgWn5  #edchat

@mrsebiology: Overcoming the barriers to educational innovation: http://bit.ly/jwhcZq  If you have time, a good read #edchat #cpchat #edadmin

@4thGrdTeach: School: The Killer of Curiosity http://me.lt/4xg5k  #edchat #elemchat

@davidwees:  Some of the greatest ideas have come from people who have mixed areas of knowledge. See Lorenz for example. http://bit.ly/ipIzss  #edchat

@JudyArzt: Leading From the Classroom: Are Educators Ready for Cloud Computing in Schools? http://t.co/wwN5TxI  #edtech #edchat

@nancyrubin: Content Strategy for the Web http://t.co/b4l63Yw  #edchat

@cybraryman1: @pickledtreats Agree! My Cross Curricular – Interdisciplinary page: http://tinyurl.com/4gkgv6n  #edchat

@malcolmbellamy: My response to an article in the Higher Education Chronicle: What makes a good teacher? http://wp.me/pKfOP-Ri  #edchat #ukedchat

@mrsebiology: Curriculum and Instruction: A 21st Century Skills Implementation Guide: http://bit.ly/iSA2Yf  #edchat #cpchat #curriculum

@BrainTrack: Letters to a future teacher: http://bit.ly/iFoJKs  #edchat RT@lmtv

I am Rob King, lead author of Inquire: A Guide to 21st Century Learning. This middle-school student handbook teaches 21st century skills such as critical and creative thinking, problem solving, communicating, collaborating, and using media. It also focuses on the inquiry process and project-based learning. My co-authors and I tweet from our account, @InquireBook. I’m also editor in chief at Sebranek, Inc., the parent company of Thoughtful Learning, UpWrite Press, and Write Source. To learn more, go to www.thoughtfullearning.com.

New to Edchat?

If you have never participated in an #Edchat discussion, these take place twice a day every Tuesday on Twitter. Over 1,000 educators participate in this discussion by just adding #edchat to their tweets. For tips on participating in the discussion, please check out these posts!

More Edchat

 

Challenge:

If you’re new to hashtag discussions, then just show up on Twitter on any Tuesday and add just a few tweets on the topic with the hashtag #edchat. 

What do you think? Leave a comment!

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