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Project Coordiator, Pakistan Innovation Foundation

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Let students be teachers and curriculum developers

I've been thinking about this for quite a while now and since I'm an undergraduate student myself, I think there is definite potential here. We have the idea of teaching assistants at university level - but that just doesn't do it. The main idea is that our curriculum needs to be given thought to by students themselves - let a student in on the curriculum development board and ask for their input.

At this point there are many things that need to be discussed, mainly:
- Who gets to decide which students are worth being 'teachers' or 'curriculum developers'.
- What courses can be developed and taught by students.
- How do teachers ensure feedback about a particular course.
- What level should this be implemented at: Middle school, High school, or college/university?
- And a personal favourite of one of my professors: Would students make good teachers?

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    Feb 25 2011: I definitely think that students need to get involved on a deeper level. We need to have voice in education decisions beyond simply being on an associated student government or student council. At the TEDx conference I organized last year, TEDxRedmond, several speakers (all of whom were under 18), spoke movingly on their opinions about education and certain ways their schools had supported and/or failed them.

    In many countries, schools are preparing students to participate in a democratic environment; yet schools themselves tend to be extremely autocratic, with all high-level decisions being made by adults. A lot of people think of students becoming teachers as simply letting a kid stand at the front of the room and give a presentation. It shouldn't stop there; it merely starts. Use online technology to have students give constructive feedback to their teachers and school administrators. Implement student suggestions. Put students on school district boards. Allow students to help form curriculum and get their ideas on which assignments work best for them. Too often we envision adults when we think of teachers. When giving speeches at education conferences, I often end with the line, "It is only when we know how to learn that we really know how to teach." A lot of educators could use this idea.
    • Mar 12 2011: Adora, I agree with what you've said. I think it's important to take students along when considering their education and what they're getting out of it. At my present institute, we have instructors that have been affiliated with it for more than 2 decades. The result? They end up thinking 'traditional is the best way' - which begs my mistrust in their teaching methods.
      I think the best way to go about the whole idea is to take it forward slowly but firmly. Start from student feedback with bi-monthly meet-ups of a student representative with the college board to talk about the changes that have been implemented/should be implemented in the class so as to alert the board to what's going on.
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    Mar 6 2011: In response to your questions I have my own: why isn't every student capable of being in charge of their own learning?

    There is some really great work going on at the high school level developing programs where students develop their own program of study based on their passion. Once their passion is identified they then build a personal learning network based on this that includes expert tutors in the field. These tutors may be local or global, it doesn't matter as long as there is internet access. www.reporterherald.com/news_story.asp?id=28846

    Gever Tulley's new school in San Francisco, builds on several models of self-determined learning including Sudbury Valley schools. This is one of the best models I have seen for a k-12 curriculum. www.sfbrightworks.org/

    At the college level, there are programs much like this as well. Faculty are advisors and students develop their plan of study in collaboration with their faculty advisor and learning groups. The student chooses every book s/he will read, what every paper will be about, and roots this all in real-world experience. Check out www.goddard.edu for more.
    • Mar 12 2011: Thank you Adam for the links you've provided. I'll definitely go through them and hope to convince the authorities at my institution for implementing at least a some of it.

      With regard to your question I think it's imperative to consider the fact that once we enroll in an institute we've essentially given ourselves to accepting certain 'commonalities' - it's sort of the whole one shoe fits all routine that goes in our class rooms then. While we might not be able to entirely change that, a way around this is to give the students a stronger voice so that they let those in charge know what's working well for them and what isn't.

      Have you had a look at the Khan Academy? I believe that's an extremely interesting way of going about modern education.
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      Mar 13 2011: Hi Adam -- as a college instructor, I'll take a stab at answering your question. Not everyone has enough self-discipline to effectively direct their own learning. Some students do, and in fact do so remarkably well, but in my experience they form a small minority. The vast majority of students simply do not "push" themselves to learn concepts that are difficult, or "push" themselves to explore themes outside of their comforts and direct interests. It's the same reason why most athletes achieve greater gains under the tutelage of a personal trainer or coach than by self-direction: the trainer/coach provides a greater measure of discipline and persistence than most people can muster on their own.

      In my courses, my students and I often engage in open discussion about how the curriculum is structured and where we can strengthen it. I regularly receive recommendation from students that are either impractical or ineffective (and I know so because I've already tried these ideas thinking they would work!). I also regularly receive thanks from graduates who tell me many of the things I had them do as students seemed unnecessary or counter-productive to them at the time, but later when working in their career they realized just how valuable those experiences were.

      This leads me to my next point: the people educators should listen to the most are successful graduates, not current students. With all due respect, it is the graduates who have the most relevant perspective on what works, what does not, and how to make improvements.
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    Mar 8 2011: Great Idea!! And in small ways, it has been done. Look-up GenY - a really great program thats been around for a while. At one of the universities where I worked, students went beyond mere TA support in the class, and were given summer jobs working with profs to create technology-infused curriculum. I have tried to propose the idea of student tech support for teachers in various schools, and it has been successful (generalizing broadly) in places where teachers and administrators already had a great relationship with students - in particular, one of mutual respect. Sadly, I have found that to be rare. I'd love to hear more about how you would see this idea playing out!
  • Feb 25 2011: Today in my sampling of some of the attitudes and mentalities surrounding the field of educational endeavor this one so far gets the prize for living in an alternate universe. Would students make good teachers? I don't know , lets waste a whole lot of precious time and money finding out that students who are there to learn and who by definition don't have the necessary expertise to be designing curricula or teaching complex subjects can take over said duties . I bet the folks back home will love that one.Work hard your entire life to scrimp and save in order to afford a good university, inhabited ostensibly by scholars who have dedicated their cognitive lives to a worthwhile field of study , only to have their expensive role taken over by the pimply kid down the block who never could get a date and spent a little bit too much time in the chess club.
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      Mar 6 2011: ah, sir! I would love to learn to play chess from such a boy! ;)
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        Mar 9 2011: you so get it! lol!!
      • Mar 11 2011: Yes but what would you say to your poor parents who saved their entire lives to have you learn from a grandmaster chess champion? Meanwhile the grandmaster is lounging in his redwood hot tub reading the funny pages while you are learning all the right moves from an amateur.
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          Mar 11 2011: I would console them by showing them that their child is infact learning from a true Grand Master who happens to be an unpretentious youth down the street.
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        Mar 13 2011: Don't be do quick to dismiss Donald's point. What students lack is real-world perspective in their chosen field(s) of study, for the simple reason that they have not yet experienced that field as an accomplished professional. The crucial element scholars bring to the table is not just knowledge, but also wisdom. This is something the pimply chess prodigy is unlikely to have. Even if we assume we can find the occasional young adult possessing both knowledge and wisdom beyond their years, there aren't enough of them to go around to make this a workable plan for education on any large scale, which seems to be the context of Areej's question.

        With that said, professional scholars can also lose perspective, especially if they have remained cloistered at the university with little "real world" application. I think the best solution to this general problem is to pay great attention to the opinions of *successful graduates* of any educational program, and to align the curriculum according to what yields the greatest proven success.
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    Mar 9 2011: For more than a decade now, I have facilitated an environment where elementary-high school age pupils have complete academic freedom within an educational republic (democracy). If standardized test scores are a concern, they routinely surpass national trends. With guidance, all curriculum standards can be met while individual interests remain a priority.
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    Mar 8 2011: I have for the past 5 years been developing the theory that each of us is akin to a neuron in a vast collective brain, only now truly capable of reaching our potential to grow and interact through the evolution of our technology. We are beginning to understand this irrepressible power as we come together to develop this unprecedented unimind.

    What a time to be alive.

    I believe we have exponentially increased our ability to obliterate all current problems know to mankind if we apply ourselves properly (with wisdom, humility and proactive and constructive collaboration).

    To that end I would like to be the first to propose a few philosophies as guidelines for this new era of learning:

    1) "It is incumbent on all students and educators, to constructively challenge how and all we are taught, towards the goal of refining the methods we use to teach and the content of any subject matter in question. Teach the rules and define the exceptions."

    2) "It is in our very nature to manipulate that which we would understand, therefore it is our collective responsibility to collaborate towards creating a culture and legacy which supports our ability to do so."

    3) "Science, the summum bonum of our ability to define and thereby control our environment, must always work in tandem with morality, which is the root of our accountability.

    Forgive my presumptuousness, in this instance c'est plus fort que moi.
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    Mar 8 2011: I enjoy the passion to find a better way.

    Is the present system completely unfit? I argue that it is not and can site many instances of best practices. Can we improve? This goes without saying.

    Are teacher education programs attracting the best and brightest? Arguably no. Universities report the quality of students in their education programs as being surprisingly and frustratingly lower. Could these programs be more rigorous? Absolutely. Will they become more rigorous? Not likely unless the demand for teachers drops dramatically.

    Could students be helpful as curriculum developers? I see no reason why not and I am very interested in hearing more details. Could students teach? Informally yes, and they do already. Formally teach and assess? Not so sure about this one. Even though teachers are judged as performing poorly they still are provided with marginal skills and training.

    What is the role of technology? Without doubt technology has provided benefits but to view it as a silver bullet is in itself problematic. Having said this I have been very impressed with UDL (Universal Design for Learning) within some schools.

    And then there's curriculum and instruction. Has it stagnated? No it hasn't. These areas lie at the very heart of education and undergo stringent and regular analysis. Considerable care should be taken when tinkering with this domain as the ultimate success or failure of the enterprise lies within.

    Education is a servant of its society. When there is a coherence and uniformity within society, education is better able to serve.

    I am not suggesting that everyone conform to one standard of education. Rather that educators either be provided independence from state regulations or that agents for change work within the responsible political and regulatory systems.

    The latter seems more likely as state governments are less likely to surrender their control over education.
    • Mar 12 2011: From what I've seen so far, most people feel that technology should be taken hand in hand where education is talked about. While I love the idea, it's also non-feasible for quite many people. Pakistan is one such example. Technology at school level is only possible in private institutes which charge insane amounts of money. So there is a definite loophole in this case, where only those who're able to spend money can have access to technology.

      Student involvement in curriculum development is only one way of tackling the educational crisis we seem to be experiencing.
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        Mar 13 2011: I understand what you're saying, Areej.

        A good number of the contributers here probably have not experienced much economic disadvantage and therefore cannot appreciate the full complexities of this issue. Home schooling is for the economically privileged - elsewhere it may be the only option and comes after a full days toil to make our cheap consumer products, if at all.

        Within these privileged communities technology (internet) is being discussed as an entitlement. Product, expertise and all supports are readily at hand, or not far off. We even like to use these technologies while driving as this activity alone fails to hold our attention and interest.

        At the other end of the social spectrum are schools where connectivity is a near insurmountable issue. Technology, in our use of the term, is foreign to most and pales in importance compared to other frankly more important human needs. One such sad case for Canadians is our First Nation schools. The United States has similar circumstances.

        However the Chateau Clique/Family Compact has become bored with their privileges and entitlement. What can be done for them?
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    Mar 8 2011: This is an often repeated idea for each new generation and it has some merit. My problem with it, however, is that "you do not know what you do not know." Many things would seem irrelevant or useless if one did not understand how that minor part comes into play as a pivotal piece down the line.
    I think the idea of having students as teachers is a great one as early chldhood research indicates that children learn best from the child that is just ahead of her in development. I wonder what effect it would have on the 'teacher' student's own progress and development to have to deal with things outside their own path of education (such as grading or classroom discipline etc.)
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      Mar 8 2011: But what if the teacher remained the content expert (except in the case of technology where, most often, the student is the expert) and collaborated with students to harness their creativity and fearlessness...make curriculum less boring?
  • Mar 7 2011: Check out http://www.sophia.org/ It's free!

    Here's some information about the company:

    Sophia enables innovation by connecting learners, teachers, experts and parents. We provide an academic community where everyone has access to learning that surrounds and supports the traditional classroom. We encourage variety and creativity in teaching so that everyone can learn in a way that makes sense to them.

    Sophia is a social teaching and learning platform that taps the teacher in all of us and enhances the learning process by providing access to a wealth of knowledge, help, instruction, standards-aligned content, and expertise available to learners everywhere.

    We want to harness technology for the betterment of the educational system as a whole. We can all help others learn. And Sophia’s mission is to be a catalyst in this educational movement.
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    Mar 6 2011: When I worked on curriculum design, it took us 7 years to fully conceptualize each course.

    What I hear often in these chats is radical change is required, but in what direction? Think a decade ahead taking into account that fundamentals will shift as fads and trends prove to be dead-end, and keep in mind that when the design is complete, it is archaic.

    Finally educators have complained loudly that constant curriculum change is at the core of the problem.
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      Mar 7 2011: Before I get serious, please allow a sarcastic reply: Perhaps we should tell technology developers to wait 7 years between each new version of technology to allow curriculum developers to catch up.

      Eric, can you explain further? It seems you are saying two contradictory things. On the one hand, I infer that curriculum is complicated and can take seven years to design. On the other hand, you are saying "when a design is complete, it is archaic". The contradiction I draw from this is we spend a lot of timely developing things that are archaic.

      Expecting a constant curriculum is an unreasonable request from educators. History, technology, language, etc. all constantly change. The focus should be on the process of learning and innovating (which does not change) and less on the specifics of the curriculum (which is bound to change). If students know how to learn and innovate from what they learn, they can learn any curriculum, if not help develop it.
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        Mar 7 2011: Well firstly, by the time the technology developers release their product to consumers, it is out of date. The advantage to them is that consumers are willing to purchase old technology.

        Curriculum, over the past, say 20 years, has undergone radical and constant change. Teachers are frustrated with the constant change for a number of reasons, one of which I often hear is they cannot find or develop appropriate resources.

        Districts have invested heavily in technology to support curriculum and instruction, but at a cost. Funding for libraries, art and music programs and even physical education are a few of the programs that have been downsized.

        The constant and growing expense of technology in both human and capital terms has been part of the reason for why I had to close a number of schools. Budgets just cannot sustain all wants and needs.

        Teacher education programs do a fine job but they do not cover a number of the skills that are required. Districts must undertake professional development and training of teachers in a number of areas before they can be effective. Yet more costs.

        I think the exchange of ideas is great. The more we understand the problem the better the solutions.
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          Mar 8 2011: Hi Eric,

          I can agree only with, "the exchange of ideas is great".

          Technology is not always a tangible product.

          Curriculum change is not the primary dilemma. Instructional, organizational, and environmental stagnancy is.

          Many teachers may be fine people but, "teacher education programs do a fine job"?
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          Mar 8 2011: Eric, thanks for the discussion!

          If technology is such a problem that it is "the reason" for shutting schools and "teachers are frustrated with the constant change" (which is inevitable) and "budgets just cannot sustain all wants and needs" then doing the same thing is the wrong answer. We need to try something else - arguably anything else. Letting students be teachers and drive curriculum sounds like a valuable alternative.
  • Mar 6 2011: I'd stay away from the councils and these kind of things. It 'd just make it more political and slow, without actually taking the individual needs into account. Adam's Burke points are very good. Every individual is unique. Students creating their own curricula with the help of mentors would be the best way to do it so far.

    I confess I'm kind of frustrated right now. I'm a career changer, and moved from Brazil to NYC for my MA program in a top school. Having to study what the professor tells you to in order to take midterms and finals to receive a grade is ridiculous. This actually derails my learning instead of helping it. I have to stop reading what I'm really interested in to study for tests (as a social psychologist, it's known that grades are not valid in terms of generating better professionals; the correlation simply does not exist).

    What helps me a lot is when I'm interested in a subject and go straight to the professor about it. Then we discuss and she recommends me some literature around it, and I go check it out. This is intrinsic motivation. Having to study not to fail or to get an A is extrinsic. It's been proved for almost 30 years that intrinsic motivation is much more powerful and constructive.

    Students teaching might be a stretch... But designing their own curricula: not at all. I would say it is very important.
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    Mar 5 2011: I have learned the most in situations where I had to teach others. I had a class in college where each student taught different sections of the course under the guidance of the teacher. We were not teaching assistants. We were the students in the class. I can still teach that part of the class to this day.
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    Feb 18 2011: Students already learn a lot from each other (directly and indirectly). The only thing keeping this from happening is adults/educators thinking that kids and students are incapable of teaching themselves. As soon as that (humbling) paradigm shift occurs, some educators will learn to be more hands-off and teach kids HOW to learn. Look at the good ol' show-and-tell parts of early education. Kids get exposed to public speaking, teaching, and diversity through something so subtle. We've all had teachers who clearly had not adapted to the younger generations, and quite frankly, should have never been allowed to influence the youth. When you look at the great teachers you've had, they all had a certain cool factor with the students and most likely took more of an andragogical approach to teaching. I think the biggest failure that public education has consistently had is that they fail to focus on the "customer". This is a very simple rule of thumb borrowed from business to focus on what the user wants and everything else will fall in place. Once again, with that, you have to get over the misbelief that kids don't know anything...As tech savvy as the youth are today, they can maneuver around the internet to find and learn anything they need to. The teacher is no longer the monopoly of knowledge in the classroom.
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    Mar 14 2011: You've definitely hit it!
    Schools don't give young people a sense of responsibility - they are just forced to follow timetables, rules and basically told where to go, what to do and essentially what to think by our school systems.
    I am part of a project that will revolutionise schools (if it doesn't, then it's failed). The first stage is to build a website
    One key section of the site is a platform for organising ideas and creating constructive discussion between teachers, students and parents about how they could improve their schools.
    You can see details of the project at our placeholder site: changethefuture.co.uk
  • Mar 9 2011: Speaking specifically to elementary students, I don't think that they are educated enough to know what they have to be taught and how to be taught because they are still learning themselves. I think this can be applied in the classroom by asking the students how they like to learn, what is interesting to them, but schools have standards they have to meet and teachers are given what they need to teach, but teachers can ask the students how they would want to learn and what activities they would like to participate in.
    Similarly, as students enter high school and middle school, teachers have standards they are to teach by and especially now with the standardized testing there is little room for creativity. However, I think that if teachers teach the material according to multiple intelligences that the units being taught will be fresher, more fun and students will engage more because the teacher is taking time to teach to each individual who learns differently.
    I think that if we ask students what they want to be taught and ask their input on the curriculum, then we will get into trouble because at that age in life, students only know what they know; they don't know what else is out there and what else they need to be taught. However, again, we can ask them their input on what activities help them learn best and make learning fun, then integrate that into the material being taught.
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    Mar 9 2011: As an Undergraduate myself, I agree that this would be a powerful idea if implemented correctly. The issues you raise are to the point;

    - Who gets to decide which students are worth being 'teachers' or 'curriculum developers'.

    This for me is the crucial point. Students who elect themselves, or put their case forward might simply be the most forward, confident students. Forwardness and confidence oughtn't justify being a 'curriculum developer'. Again, an issue is raised if current teaching staff are charged with appointing 'student teachers', so I would imagine a good way of doing this would be to hold meetings or events were any student who wished to attend could, and in the presence of teaching staff could raise issues relevant to themselves and the student body. Perhaps then, the student body could 'elect' a representative.

    - What courses can be developed and taught by students.

    I feel somewhat disillusioned with the way my course has gone thus far; I feel that I have had very limited input into the progression of my own degree (something I am paying heavily for). I believe if such a system were to be implemented, then it ought to reach across the board, supporting students from all faculties and courses.

    - What level should this be implemented at: Middle school, High school, or college/university?

    The most useful application of such an idea would be at the University/college level. Prior to this, I believe the role of teacher/student should be as is; certain standards of education need to be met, and I'm not entirely sure this would be achieved with too much student involvement from an early age.

    - And a personal favourite of one of my professors: Would students make good teachers?

    Students do make good teachers; surely we know this otherwise the teaching profession would be in dire straits!

    EDIT: Also, to clarify, I don't believe students should ever "teach" courses. Develop them, certainly. Students should have some control over their learning
  • Mar 9 2011: I think that this not only a good topic but an important one for education not only passes on but mutates and transforms into a different form. For this reason, some aspects of education, such as recent events, can be best taught by students. Also, students can change the knowledge they are taught into a form that adults have not used before. For example, this is a discovery I made recently. In equasion "ax*+bx+c=0(a =/= 0)" the answer is(d*=D, D=b*-4ac)) "x1 = (-b+d)/2a, x2=(-b-d)/2a" then "x1-x2 = (-b+d+b+d)/2a = d/a" thus "d = (x1-x2)a" thus "D=((x1-x2)a)*. So, if "a" and "(x1-x2)" are real numbers D is over zero, thus there are two real number answers.
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    Mar 9 2011: Whoops! I didn't expand the thread... Sorry, folks, I probably preguritated (WORD PLAY ALERT) a bunch of ideas before reading what other people have to say.
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    Mar 9 2011: In most cases, teachers are the educators because their presence "forces" students to keep up with the course material. Teachers provide content, but each teacher is apt to insert opinions (maybe not in the field of mathematics) that prohibit the student from forming his or her own opinions. However, in other instances, a teacher could easily be replaced by a computer program or predetermined curriculum if not for his/her students inherent "laziness." I think that a greater effort should be put into relating course material to real world applications by actually allowing students to apply learned concepts. This too is an old idea, but it is one that I feel would make schooling a great deal more exciting for students. Having students be the teachers is an interesting idea: it seems as though it would be beneficial to both students, as one student reinforces his/her own ideas by educating the younger student. However I do not believe that a system of education based solely on peer education would be less productive than simply having a mandatory tutoring system. In such a system students would partake in a curriculum that has been constructed by a network of teachers and be staggered in such a way that one student would never be more than a (insert ideal duration here) behind the next "grade level" up. As for what Debra said about grading: The student teacher should be responsible for grading, and the course material that one student would teach another student should be within that student's recent coursework. I think students should be able to teach other students in mathematics, science, language arts, and international languages, but I don't think it is safe to leave history to young minds to try to teach. History is too easy to form opinions about and should be one of the courses that students should learn from a book or interactive resource that presents multiple opinions.
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    Mar 8 2011: Areej, many thanks for this thread.

    Wayne, presumption forgiven, we have technology :) 1. on target; 2. excellent point; 3. gospel.

    Hats off again Eric for the alternative perspective. I am also familiar and frustrated with the budget crises in education.

    The system is broken from urban to rural. What works well will continue to prosper.
    Peabody might argue that they do attract the best and brightest. Retention is to blame. I fear it is the system.
    Formal teaching and assessment?
    "The person who learns something out of school is self-disciplined. He works for the merit in his own eyes, not credit from the registrar." - Walter Lippman
    Again I say, curriculum is not the primary issue here.
    There will never be uniformity without oppression in a diverse nation like America. We must be multidimensional, pluralistic, and evolutionary.
    Agents for change cannot work within parameters.
    States may not have a choice of control if Americans practice their legal right to educate their own children.
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    Mar 7 2011: Terrific idea! Alfie Kohn recently tweeted a similar concept. Check his work out: http://www.alfiekohn.org/i

    I've led my teachers to develop the vision for their program with the students at the center of the conversation, but why not bring them to the conversation? Check out a blog post in which I discuss this: http://dynamicschools.net/taylor
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    Mar 6 2011: "If the people are incapable of achieving the education that responsible democratic citizenship demands, then democracy is doomed, Aristotle rightly condemned the masses of mankind to natural slavery, and the sooner we set about reversing the trend toward democracy the better it will be for the world." - Hutchins, R.M and Adler, M.J.1952
  • Mar 6 2011: When I was in 7th Grade, my English teacher told us that she taught at a school that had a committee, or council, or something similar with both school staff and students on it.

    She said that any topic that any student brought up could be discussed to determine if there was even a good solution.
    She, as a middle school teacher, like the system so much that she started a smaller version for our grade.

    They discussed topics like sports schedules and other things that might require the work load or class pace to be altered.
    I think it worked out well but we started half way through the year.

    This could do many things for education. It could potentially help the arts and it would definably make less students get lost and loss hope as far as academics. I like your thinking.
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    Mar 6 2011: Good idea . By the way we can set up a council in the college which can involve students to make only presentations and videos to make there fellow classmates to listen to them and thus , teach some topic.
  • Feb 16 2011: I think this is a great point, and something that's actually been written down in theory. I'm currently in my second sociocultural theory class. We talk at length about mediation in learning.

    The change is quite simple and certainly not radical. Here's my take on it:

    1. Create curriculum thinker groups. three groups of three students (nine total). In each group, you have a high achiever, medium achiever, and a low achiever for a particular subject area or class. In preparation for the following school year, invite those children to partake in reformulating the curriculum. The mixed groups will allow for more attention to various levels of students. Bring the three groups together to collaborate and finalize curriculum decisions. This could be a two-day event at the end of a semester or school year.

    2. Give high achieving students the ability to tutor, not teach. It would kind of be an insult to the profession if students were teaching and not teachers with Masters Degrees in Edu (New York State).

    High achieving students are great as tutors because they might be better at differentiating instruction than some teachers. Being the same age enables the higher achieving student to recognize issues and problems a teacher may miss.
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      Feb 16 2011: Forgive my ignorance, but where is the difference between "tutoring" and "teaching"? Aren't those things synonyms and isn't it the job of the teacher/tutor to do his best in communicating the subject either way?
      • Feb 17 2011: Great point. In the way I was describing it, I was referring to teachers as those who are professional educators. Tutors on the other hand are not necessarily professionals.

        When I referred to the teacher, I would expect them to lead in teaching. Tutors help the teacher reach students in unique ways that teachers cannot. Teachers have the responsibility to educate using theory and strategies. Tutors could be those in the process of learning theory and strategies. If they so choose, they could be in the process of learning to become a teacher.

        In this case, tutoring is something specific, while teaching is not.
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          Feb 18 2011: Ah. I see... so a "tutor" is a teacher with people skills, while a "teacher" is a human Wikipedia/reference. Got it.

          Well, as Sugata Mitra would say he was told, "A teacher that can be replaced by a machine, should be". I think every teacher should actually be a tutor, and if a teacher is insulted by a tutor taking his place, perhaps he should actually learn to tutor in addition to learning the subject.

          Teachers that can't tutor may as well become "scientists" in the field.
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    Feb 16 2011: As a teacher student, I completely believe in this. For that teacher first has to give importance to students' experiences and ability to construct meaning.

    What usually worked for me is using arts to ignite reflection and also allowing students not only to work on projects but initiate them. Creating whole course does not seem appropriate because teacher also brings his/her experiences but yes a collaborative approach is very much needed.

    Rather than teachers, we need a generations of knowledge constructors.
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    Feb 16 2011: Great topic, great idea! I've long believed students should have a greater role in their own education. Having homeschooled all three of my children, who are now all pursuing their interests independently and at the college level, I can say with first hand knowledge that they learned best and most enduringly when pursuing topics that interested them. And each of them have become "teachers", at some point, to peers and younger people, and sometimes older people, who share their interests. Working together, they've continued to learn more about their own field and refine their skills, including vital communications skills, while informally teaching others.I guess my question would be: Do we have to think in terms of "courses" here? Or "curriculum development"? Might we consider something more organic, along the lines of apprenticeships and mentoring experiences, where people learn in hands on environments, side by side?
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    Feb 16 2011: Where I study currently (university), they already have that... and in fact they had offered me and a few fellow students the opportunity to teach*. I've also been taught by a few students**, and I can confirm some of them teach better than their superiors, while the rest are on par (you can see that when you compare the lectures with the "excersises").

    While yes, they do give you a curriculum you should follow, it's more of a "guideline"... like "You should make sure students understand concepts A, B, C... Z; How and when you teach them is irrelevant, as long as it's all done in 10 weeks". In other words, you have freedom of style, just not much freedom in material, which as far as I'm concerned is a good thing, because you don't need wonder "what" to teach if in doubt.

    Editing the curriculum itself is a bit different though, because it needs to be approved on higher levels than the lecturer (e.g. the dean; the ministry of education; depending on the degree of change). Teachers are usually opened for new "selectable subjects" though (each student must go to one of several selectable subjects per trimester).

    The universal criteria for students doing any of these in my univercity:
    1. If a student has an "A" in a subject, he's qualified to teach it, and he may, as long as there's shortage in people wanting to teach it.
    2. If an "A" student has an idea for a selectable subject he's willing to teach himself, he can try to pitch it to students, and if he can sign up ~5 or more people for it, he may actually proceed teaching it under the supervisory of an actual non-TA teacher.

    Thoughts?

    * I study IT, and the offer was for IT subjects, primarly "Object Oriented Programming" and "Algoritms and Data Structures"; I don't plan on teaching though, because the curriculum I have seems too overloaded for my taste; I don't think I can handle both teaching and studying.

    ** Again in IT subjects, but some fellow students have been taught math subjects and report the same things
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    Feb 15 2011: being specific to your idea..
    do you feel it ll be better to involve industry experts and professionals to decide the curriculum so that the course is up to date and relevant.
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      Feb 25 2011: Industry experts and professionals are only part of it just like work is only part of what we do. I think the best people to have involved are the people just out of school. Work with them to identify what they feel they missed. Ask them what they wished they had known better or had more experience with, for work, life, relationships, managing finances, etc.
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    Feb 15 2011: there is no denying that the education system, the curriculum and the whole idea of education has to undergo a radical change in order to make it meaningful.
    i would rather prefer changing the system of how the education is conducted before restructuring the curriculum.
    i guess the problem majorly is not with the course (agreed it sometimes is redundant and not in sync with practical applications, sometimes) but the way the things are taught.
    students have gotten used to the cramming behaviour and the imposition of performing well. there is no scope for making mistakes as sir ken robinson says.

    I am still thinking the possible ways of bringing about this change because it requires the whole examination pattern to be restructured in a way students actually learn.
    Also since we have been successful in discussing so much about these things, we also know that its not necessary to have "high school education" to be successful.
    the elementary school system should be such that it also helps the student realise his/her potential and direct them in the right field.

    but these are all shoulds.

    you may refer to the kipps program in the US.

    is there a way to bring about a change in the global education system !!!?
    • Feb 16 2011: I think if we keep on talking about a 'radical' change, things will be at a standstill. Why can't change be brought more gradually? For instance, instead of changing the entire education system in one go, take it step by step.

      There are merits and demerits to our education system. We should work on firstly, recognizing what we feel should stay and what needs to go and secondly, combining the merits of our education system with however we think of restructuring it.

      Let's also keep in mind that our attitudes towards education would be undergoing a change as well - there are people who're used to age old educational systems.

      My particular concern is with our curriculum development, however. I feel this is a short-term plan towards making our educational system more interactive. It's on a micro level rather than a macro one, mostly because I feel small steps would lead to big ones.