Saturday, July 6, 2013

Bottom Up or Top Down?

Should pedagogical decisions be made from the bottom up, or the top down? Should what and how we teach be based on the demands of the "next level" - be it the next grade, college, a career, or anything else? Who should conform to who? Is the job of an elementary teacher to prepare their students for middle school, and a middle school teacher to prepare their students for high school, and a high school to prepare their students for a career or college?  

If college demands loads of outside homework and reading, and no re-takes on assessments, shouldn't high school follow suit? And if high school has to demand loads of homework, no re-takes, penalties for late work, then shouldn't middle school? If middle school is to prepare students for the demands of high school, shouldn't elementary schools reflect middle school?

In the world of education who is the driving force? Who should be? If we're sending our students off to college woefully unprepared - lacking in strong critical thinking skills as a product of over-testing, then what happens when we send these same students to college expecting flexible deadlines and the chance to retake tests and redo papers for full credit? 

Will colleges conform, or will our students struggle to adapt as they accumulate debt and spend more and more time in their pursuit of a degree? Will workplaces adjust as workers come in expecting more lax deadlines and second chances?

If we know that what we are doing as classroom teachers is best practice and what is truly best for the kids, but at the same time we know it's not fully preparing them for the 'next level', are failing our students? Should we sacrifice some of our beliefs about best practice if we know that those practices won't actually have them ready for the next level? Or, if we are doing what is best for the kids, regardless of the 'next level', then maybe we shouldn't worry about what happens 'next'?


  1. You're missing some fundamental questions to ponder...

    Are you preparing kids for the next grade level or for life?

    I suppose if "the next grade level" is your answer, then your path is clear. Prepare them for next year's work, regardless of whether or not it is pedagogically appropriate or in the best interest of things beyond school.

    "I'm sorry, Jimmy. I know this work is pointless, irrelevant, and sucking the joy of learning and creativity out of you. But, gosh darnit, I need to prepare you for next year where you will be getting more pointless, joy sapping work."

    If, however, you're answer is "for life", then your path takes a different turn.

    As you can tell, I'm not a fan of the human centipede approach to education. ;)

  2. That's a great point, actually. I was struggling with putting my thoughts into words here...and that last question hits the nail on the head. However, to play Devil's Advocate here...if little Jimmy needs a 4+ year college degree so he can be prepared for "life" - then is it our obligation to help Jimmy prepare for "life" by preparing him for "the next level"? Basically, the whole system, PreK-12+ needs an overhaul...

  3. ... which means we need you and others on the front line teaching the best way possible, not following the lowest common denominator. Don't let other people's poor pedagogical approach limit you from raising the bar. Keep fighting the good fight, my friend. ;)