Re: 3 solutions for school game???/jan

Eric Crump (wleric@SHOWME.MISSOURI.EDU)
Thu, 15 Aug 1996 13:03:11 -0500

Jan said she was taught three main roles for teachers:
>1) teacher as authority (sage on the stage, I suppose)
>2) teacher as skill-giver
>3) teacher as facilitator

What happens to the others if we add:

4) teacher as colleague

>I'd like to see Eric Crump (and Mike H. and Beth Baldwin) post or send some
>assignments and a syllabus...

The stuff for the two classes I taught last year and the one I'm teaching
this fall are on the web:

...along with some assessment standards.

I don't create assessment standards. I ask students to create their own
projects and suggest the criteria they think would be appropriate for
assessing their own work. Self-assessment is a whole lot more valuable, I
think, than being judged. I'm trying to get away from the notion that
students are *objects* of teaching (I think Holt says something about this
somewhere, but I can't find the quote). The traditional assumption that
designing courses of study, establishing criteria, and performing
assessment are solely the responsibility of the teacher really impoverishes
the class and cheats students out of some of the most interesting and most
valuable aspects of their work.

That's why I prefer a project-based class. Projects are the points in time
and space where ideas become action. They must be borne of interest and
energy or they are nothing more than assignments. The motivation to *do*
them must come from within the individuals or groups that are going to do
the doing, or they are mere exercises. And therefore the assessment element
must be primarily a function of the people doing the project. Outside
evaluation is helpful, but ought to be peripheral. If we want the teacherly
person to be fully engaged in assessment, the teacherly person ought to be
a full partner in the project. Evaluation is a natural function of any
project. It is generated by the same interest and energy that initiated the
project. It is generated by commitment to developing something (whatever it
may be) that will make a difference, that will work, that will influence,
that will produce, that will contribute.

No matter how brilliant or motivational a teacher is, that kind of
engagement cannot be engineered from without.

Ya see, I don't want to get rid of teacherly persons, I just want to create
conditions in which we no longer have to be coercers. I think that, deep
down, or orginally, most teachers abhor that role. They don't want to
enforce rules and construct boring assignments. They want to help students
get excited about learning and doing. Teachers have to be taught to be
disciplinarians (most of them, anyway) in the bad sense of the word. They
are, to the system, like their students are to them. Boxed in. Slowly but
surely indoctrinated to believe in institutional imperatives in spite of
their intuitions that those imperatives usually destroy the classsroom as a
learning environment.

School has been so set apart, so isolated from the ordinary
conditions and motives of life, that the place where children
are sent for discipline is the one place in he world where it
is most difficult to get experience--the mother of all discipline
worth the name.
--John Dewey

Teachers' main fault is that when the system (other teachers, parents,
administrators) tell them--this is the way it is; this is the way it must
be; you must be in control; you must discipline *them*; you must teach them
what we want them to know--they buy it.

All's I want to say is: Don't buy in so easy.

>If Eric
>isn't grading or giving assignments, how are the students demonstrating
>growth or learning? How, in other words, is he justifying their time, and
>his, in the teaching situation?

Demonstration is via presentation of projects. Students decide what they
care about and how they might employ writing to pursue the subject. They
decide what form and venue would be most appropriate for their purposes.
They share their work with me and their classmates at various points,
usually at an end-of-semester presentation. In other words, it ain't *me*
that has to do the justifying. They have to be satisfied that they have
chosen something worth doing. They have to justify to themselves that what
they are doing matters. That's all the justification I need. It comes from
them, not from me.

How do we know they are learning and growing? This is the part I haven't
done so well, so far. According to the plan, assessment is collaborative.
We talk about what they've learned. There's really no other way to get at
it. Tests are worthless. Timed writing and essays don't cut it. They
initiate the discussion with their comments assessing the benefit of what
they've done. I add my perception about the value of their work. We are
supposed to talk until we reach some kind of agreement or compromise if
necessary, and that is the basis by which they choose their grades.

As for my time. I serve as a consultant at every step of the way. My time
is only applied at point-of-need. Very efficient, I think, for them and for

--Eric Crump

The really able thinkers in our class turn out to be, without
exception, children who don't feel so strongly the need to
please grownups. Some of them are good students, some not so
good; but good or not, they don't work to please us, but to
please themselves. (Holt _How Children Fail_ 18)