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Randy Speck

Superintendent , Madison District Public Schools

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What does the "perfect" classroom look like for students and how would you measure success?

We only have one opportunity to educate our children. Education is one of the most complex professions but the definition of success has a variety of opinions. So, with as many variables as you can think of (at risk students, diversity, intrinsic motivation), what is the design for the perfect classroom?

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    Jan 8 2012: An Mr. Kellner points out, the perfect classroom isn't a room at all. You also state that we only have one opportunity to educate our children. /If/ that one opportunity is life itself, I agree. You seem to suggest that children only learn from public education, but I posit that children learn from their entire environment, starting at home, and including everything they do and everywhere they go. Learning should be a lifelong process!

    That nitpicking aside, I have different ideas about what would make the perfect classroom.

    On one hand, it should not be too comfortable. Part of learning should be about getting people to think for themselves, and what better way to do so than to provide challenges that spur the desire to learn? If, for example, food is out of reach, then students must learn to either cooperate to get the food or utilize a tool to get the food. By contrast, if the food is simply handed to them any time they desire it, from whence will come the motivation to learn? However, arbitrary challenges cannot become rote; real challenges should be integrated and varied.

    Another aspect to consider is that different people learn in various ways. Some people can absorb knowledge readily through text, while others are more inclined to a hands-on approach. In light of this difference, a classroom should be equipped with more than just books, and the curricula should reflect this diversity.

    Last, though not finally, the measure by which a student is shown to be learning should not be held as a universal standard. At least not too stridently. Certainly do policymakers need to see tangible results in order to continue funding, and this is a known problem, perhaps even a necessary evil. What /can/ be done, however, is provide positive encouragement to all students, whether they are the ones who ace the tests, the ones who demonstrate creative solutions, or the ones who apply critical reasoning. Relying too heavily on results-based analysis can be detrimental.

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