Mark Barnes

ASCD, International Society for Technology in Education

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Shouldn't schools do everything possible to create Results Only Learning Environments?

A Results Only Learning Environment (ROLE) is a progressive classroom that eliminates all traditional teaching methods -- worksheets, homework, tests and quizzes, rules and consequences and grades. These are replaced with year-long projects, collaboration, autonomy and narrative feedback over grades.

The results are students who are intrinsically motivated and who develop an almost uncanny thirst for learning.

Shouldn't be call for results-only learning worldwide?

  • Aug 21 2011: Pretty much any suggestion such as 'smaller classes', 'better facilities', 'more highly qualified teachers' or 'closing failing schools' belongs in the category of Tweaking. That is, trying to make something intrinsically flawed work better. With the exception of the Scandinavian education model. all of the world's systems are based on weeding out the doers from the thinkers within a set of predominantly cognitive criteria. The criteria need to be rethought. For example, who is to say that a young learner with a liking for plumbing could not also do a PhD in applied mathematics, by way of hobby? Or that a true genius chemist would not prefer to work as a fashion designer? The point is discovering and fostering individual talent. The point is providing choice. The point is making available as wide a range of opportunities as possible.

    Take two children, one who has mastered reading at the age of 3 and one who comes to school aged 5 without even the basics of 's' is for snake and 'z' is for zebra. Aged 5, there already is a reading age difference of 3 years. Yet who is to say that the latter child is not the next Marie Curie, Marconi or Shakespeare? This child, in our current systems, is predestined to lag behind and with few exceptions (1 in 7 in the UK) end up a manual or lower skilled worker. So, the challenge is to create a new model that allows this child to overcome its time-based handicap and discover and develop its potential to the full - while also allowing the first child to progress at a pace that is sufficiently stimulating - while also catering for peer (age) and social group requirements. It is not tweaking that is needed - it is a completely different model that allows each child, irrespective of its background, to come into its own.
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    Aug 19 2011: Worldwide? No. Different strokes for different folks.

    Tradition is not inherently wrong or outmoded. There is a lot to be learned from current and traditional education methods.

    The fastest way, I see, to solve the problems with mass-education is to reduce the number of students in a classroom.

    Setting a maximum of 10 students per teacher/classroom would result in great results regardless of the teaching method or learning styles.

    This, of course, costs A LOT and so it is extremely unlikely to ever happen. If politicians actually had any vision, they would be throwing money at education and smiling while they do so.
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      Aug 19 2011: Scott, having a small number of students is a major part of being a successful teacher. I can tell you, though, that a few years ago, when I was using traditional methods, I had a class of 11 students, while my other classes averaged 25.

      Students in the smaller group didn't do much better than those in the larger ones. Test scores were similar, as was production.

      So, although I definitely want to keep class sizes small, I believe methods are the most important part of successful learning, and the ROLE is what I have found creates a real thirst for learning.

      Thanks for chiming in.
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        Aug 20 2011: Very true. I guess that I am assuming that the teacher is conscientious and reflects on their own performance.

        I think that it's a combination of a lot of factors that go into a successful school: strong leadership and organisation, a culture of enthusiasm for learning, support from the parent community, a desire to always improve, facilities and resources, constructive appraisal systems, a willingness to take risks and try new things. The list is long.

        I have a lot of faith in education largely because of the people involved. Most teachers want to be effective educators and their students to be successful. There's a lot of distractions in the form of bureaucracy.
  • Aug 24 2011: it's AN approach but i don't think it is the ONLY choice. I think that education needs to be about FINDING solutions to problems not GIVING solutions to problems. students must be engaged in their own educational experience and empowered to form their own opinion and their own educational construct. ROLE is great but it is only a small piece in the the puzzle.
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      Aug 24 2011: Actually, Nathan, you've described the ROLE perfectly. It is about students finding solutions, instead of the teachers giving them the answers. Results-only learning engages students in their own educational experience. It is the most student-centered approach you'll find.

      It's much more than a choice. It's education reform that can revolutionize the way students learn.

      Thanks for weighing in on this.
      • Aug 27 2011: I agree, but there are multiple techniques that still need to be used. Some more traditional methods still make sense in certain subjects. some more radical and evolved methodologies make more sense. i don't think that we can limit ourselves as educators nor should we limit the students. there are so many variants in learning styles and effective methods that simply limiting ourselves to a singular methodology within our pedagogy is counterproductive. humans are unique and therefore teaching needs to be vastly diverse to appeal to the needs of each groups of students. ROLE is great. but not perfect for everyone.
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          Aug 27 2011: Sorry, Nathan, but I respectfully disagree. I can't think of a single example of good use of traditional teaching methods.
  • Aug 20 2011: Great proponent of project-based learning. But there has to be room for all kinds of learners and all kinds of talents otherwise you run the risk of learners at either end of the ability spectrum losing interest and becoming disaffected. Also, children are highly competitive creatures so some sense of (flexible) pecking order must necessarily be allowed to exist. The greatest challenge for nearly every education system in the world is to incorporate some form of handicap (in the golfing sense) for those who come into the system with different starting points. It must be borne in mind that the strongest determinant for a child's educational performance is the parents' educational attainment level. Coupled with abundant evidence in favour of extremely flexible system models, it strikes me that a complete overhaul of our thinking about a) the purpose of education for society b) the purpose of education for each child c) the methods employed to attain those goals and d) the methods employed to foster talent along the way is long overdue. In fact it has been overdue since the 19th century came to a close and along with it, the need for factory fodder. This industrial world no longer exists, so why have the systems put in place to feed it not disappeared a long time ago?
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      Aug 21 2011: Michaela, the competitiveness that you mention is something the Results Only Learning Environment eliminates. In a ROLE, we use year-long projects, created by the students. They can work independently or with peers. They can choose one group to work with all year on a project or pull from the class, in order to make use of the various skills of others.

      This autonomy helps develop a thirst for learning and it eliminates competition.

      Thanks for chiming in on this discussion.
  • Aug 18 2011: "The results are students who are intrinsically motivated and who develop an almost uncanny thirst for learning."

    Uhm... have these types of system been successfully and formally applied anywhere? if not this statement is rather theoretical I think.

    If they have, and these are really their results, well its just a matter of proving it, divulging it and adopting it I think.
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      Aug 19 2011: Yes, I have used results-only learning, and it has been the best learning system in my 18 years as a classroom teacher.