Archive for December, 2006

Whither education in the 21st century?

December 20, 2006

I am going to forego the Morning Reading Group meeting this morning in the interest of finishing some end of term course evaluation work.

If the merit of last session’s reading were to know a common perspective of faculty, then the merit of this week (Moore, Bill Guilty Bystanders WA State Board for Community & Technical Colleges December 2006 (A reprint from June 1998)) is as an antidote to that . Among the quotes I highlighted in that article was this:

…creating a real community—one in which people genuinely depend on each other for enhancing the quality of learning—out of an artificial context requires letting go of some power and control within the classroom…

And I note how that resonates with some of Chuck Pezeshki’s comments in an OpEd piece in yesterday’s Daily News, where he says:

* Students must be allowed some choices on how they spend their time in the classroom. When confronted with no control over their lives, they become submissive and passive thinkers.

Chuck’s whole item below.

HIS VIEW: Whither education in the 21st century?

By Chuck Pezeshki

Tuesday, December 19, 2006 – Page Updated at 10:07:20 AM

It’s all over the news again, like it has been for the past 20 years. This week, it’s on the front of Time magazine. Whither education? And what’s happening to our kids?

It’s exciting to see Moscow residents have been active in the debate themselves. The conference on Nov. 27 regarding vocational education is an important first step in any dialogue the community has in coming up with solutions that affect the future of our young people.

I am a mechanical engineering professor, and have been involved in solutions for progressive education my whole career. I run a design clinic, where senior college students complete real work for sponsor companies that pay thousands of dollars for that work. I’ve directed the clinic for 13 years. Many of my students are hired from my class by the sponsor companies. Students work in teams of four to six, and while I have high standards, I do not grade, other than an “A” or an incomplete. As in the Real World, students must complete real work, defined by a specification that is agreed upon by the company, and benchmarked at the end for performance. I have close to 100 percent delivery rate, with a product that conforms to the specification, and a 70 percent adoption rate. When students leave my class, they are truly “ready to work.”

You might think that either a) I’m lying, or b) I use such advanced technology that students by default produce good work. Neither is true. But I have secrets.

* If you want students to learn, you must believe that they can learn. Judging anyone constantly is not the recipe for anyone’s personal success.

* Students must be allowed some choices on how they spend their time in the classroom. When confronted with no control over their lives, they become submissive and passive thinkers.

* Plenty of hard questions, but no trick questions. Too much of education has been involved with fooling the students. No one likes to be made a fool — a recipe for disaster.

* A classroom must be a safe place, where students can explore, and not fear humiliation. The moment that any person is scared, they are operating out of the same part of the brain we have in common with a hamster — and it’s not the thinking part.

* Teachers must have some discretionary funding, to try new things, and some respect for their discretion as they experiment. Without this, we cannot move forward. I recently sat down with my son’s third-grade teacher. She is engaged, obviously very bright, and still young enough to not be cynical. Because of the WASL, every day she has is scripted by someone else. The same things that disempower students disempower our educators.

* We have to recognize that we are a society in transition from a more verbal/symbol-based literacy to a visual literacy. As I wrap up my class today, I’ll talk to some corporate sponsors on the phone. I’ll use the Internet to deliver an electronic portfolio of student work to another corporation, consisting of animations, video, a PowerPoint presentation, design drawings and a standard report. After that, I’m meeting a group of students to make our own production video of their final, constructed project. Needless to say, this is very different than turning in a standard, typewritten report to end the semester.

* Instead of the notion of rewarding individual students with the status of gifted, we must recognize that all students can be educated. We have to reward teamwork, instead of the current notion of winners and losers. In order to do this, teachers must move to a paradigm of classroom performance ownership. This means, especially in later grades where developmental issues are not such a large factor, we should be shooting for all students to learn the material presented equally — and then give individuals opportunities to express their own creativity in guided ways. Teachers must be accountable as well as students.

* We must recognize the tools students need to use today — from home-produced video, to computer-aided design, to video games — are different from the ones we learned. And while we as parents must be engaged, there are going to be topics we are not familiar with. Support for teachers now is critical in assuring that they have the educational background.

Finally, we have to love our children. Too often, I hear young people being blamed for the world’s problems. Young people haven’t had a chance to mess up the world yet. And blame gets us nowhere. Let’s keep the dialogue going, and get to work.

Chuck Pezeshki is a professor in mechanical and materials engineering at Washington State University, and chairman of the WSU Faculty Senate.

On 12/18/06 5:10 PM, “Ater-Kranov, Ashley” wrote:

Hi Folks,

Please visit the MRG wiki page to access the Moore article proposed by Gary Brown.  I’ve included the link and rationale here as well.
Moore, Bill Guilty Bystanders WA State Board for Community & Technical Colleges December 2006 (A reprint from June 1998)
Moore, who coordinates the Washington State Assessment Conference, spouse of a former HEC Board member, National Learning Community Fellow, great softball player and a good guy expresses the need for a new impatience with educators who fail to participate in assessment. As we head into a new push toward accreditation, this article may be useful for sharing with chairs and others even as it re-energizes our commitment to assessment and transformation.
See you Wednesday morning!


From: Ater-Kranov, Ashley
Sent: Friday, December 15, 2006 3:24 PM
To: CTLT.Designers; Johnson-Shull, Lisa Ann; Jorgensen, Randy; Peterson, Nils; Weathermon, Karen Lynn
Subject: RE: a call for MRG reading material for 12/20

Hi MRG participants,

I’ve had one suggestion for MRG reading material so far for Wednesday’s session (12/20) – please send me as well as post your suggestion with the rationale behind the choice on the MRG wiki page by Monday afternoon, so we can get the selection decided upon in time to read it.


Ashley Ater Kranov
Assistant Director
Center for Teaching, Learning, and Technology
Washington State University
Smith CUE 503N
(509) 335-6212