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One relatively simple and cheap change can be made to schooling to reduce opt out and drop out rates.

the majority of school systems use a model for reporting on achievement that is of the form A, B, C, D, E or 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 which denotes the performance in that year of learning. Where A (or 1) is high performing and E (or 7) is low performing. This system has the effect of telling students that they are passing (good) or failing (bad). Students who are slower learners or who start school with any form of deficit are more likely to categorise themselves as failures fom an early age. When this happens too often, they opt out or disengage, then eventually drop out. A better system is to describe achievment in terms of a fixed continuum that is continuous through the grades, at least for the early stages of schooling. What this means is that we describe signposts of learning at different stages that students 'move' through as they demonstrate success. This sends a different message to all students. It says 'here is where you are in your learning and now i can help you move to the next stage'. Instead of a message of pass fail good bad, of personal quality and position in school, the message is neutral and merely descriptive. The message implies that learning is a journey to be travelled in different ways and different speeds by individuals. Each report on a student would simply be that they were say 5.5 in Science, which means they are working at level 5 and have a 50% probability of working at level 6 in the next learning stage. It helps to personalise learning because teachers know were each student is in each field of learning and can create individual learning paths from that knowledge. It helps to retain students interest in continuing their schooling and so increase their chance of future successes. It helps minimise self attribution of negatives such as 'I can't do school'; 'I suck at science'; etc. This system has been used in Australia and seen to have the social benefits descibed. It is doable and meets all demands of the system.


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    Nov 4 2013: There are a few principles I would like to share:
    - the purpose of all evaluation must be to assist the students become able to evaluate himself/herself.
    - understanding is multidimensional. It has breadth and depth. There are indicators that might help us know if someone is advancing in their understanding but it is impossible to grade or put a number to evaluate the degree of the depth of understanding. Only the student can have some understanding of whether he is advancing. And it is for this reason that evaluation but something that the student does for himself/herself.
    - each student advance at their own pace and everyone must be allowed to advance at their own pace. Pitting two students with different pace against each other is destructive.
    - education must focus more on advancing the understanding of concepts rather than assimilating information.
    • Nov 4 2013: Shahzad, I couldn't agree more. The problem for me as apracticing teacher is that bureaucrats want some measure of student performance, and I don't see any change to that any time soon. That's exactoy the reason I have experimented with different ways that cause less harm, while meeting the needs of the student, teacher and bureaucrats.
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        Nov 5 2013: I totally agree and that is why I am currently working in an organization where we are learning about informal education system that does not need much funding and allows a lot of flexibility.

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