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Mr. Tea
23-05-2007, 08:10 PM
For the past few months I've been doing some private tuition to try and make ends meet while I finish my PhD, and a recurring theme has emerged in the questions my students ask me - namely, one question in particular: do I have to know this for the exam?

There's one girl I'm teaching at the moment who's in Year 9 (that's 14 years old, for the benefit on non-Brits) who's particularly annoying on this front. She seems to have an almost phobic aversion to learning anything that's not garuanteed to come up in the exams she's got this summer. I mean, even if I teach her something that's at a very slightly higher level than what she's doing at school at the moment, it'll surely stand her in good stead next year, as the subjects I'm teaching (science and maths) are core subjects that she can't drop before taking her GCSEs anyway. She's even said to me things like (in so many words) "I don't have to understand this, I just have to know it, right?" :slanted: To be honest, it's hard to blame her, given the box-ticking, jumping-through-hoops approach that seems to dominate the National Curriculum at the moment, and the government's obsession with targets, league tables and easily quantifiable results.

I remember in my history GCSE (and this is going back 10 years) getting marked down for writing stuff that was, to quote the teacher, of A-level standard - because I wasn't simply doing what I was told for GCSE coursework.

Does anyone else here teach? Or maybe some of the younger members have recently finished school themselves? Thoughts, anyone?

swears
23-05-2007, 09:15 PM
Cheesy american teen comedy cliche #144:

Something outrageous or bizarre happens in class that has absolutley nothing to do with the subject being taught. Dopey kid raises his hand and says "Will this be on the exam?"

Mr. Tea
23-05-2007, 09:21 PM
Pretty much that, only subsitute for "something outrageous or bizarre happens in class that has absolutley nothing to do with the subject being taught", "something that might perhaps be of interest to the student and useful in their later educational career but hasn't necessarily been decreed fit for children of their age by Those On High who decide these things".

swears
23-05-2007, 09:27 PM
I know what you mean. Other pupils would often ask me at school why I was reading books not on the curriculum.
Totally baffled them.

matt b
23-05-2007, 09:35 PM
this happens a lot to me.
i have 'discussions' with students where i suggest that maybe some things are simply interesting in their own right.

i generally get laughed at

Edward
23-05-2007, 10:48 PM
I finished school in 1991 and it was the same then. It was encouraged by the teachers because they wanted the school to have good results in the exams and that's what mattered.
Often I would ask for something to be explained only to be told that you didn't need to know that for the exam.
You don't need to understand what current, voltage and resistance etc are as long as you can plug the numbers into a formula which is provided for you (you dont have to memorise it either).

I really wanted to learn something and really understand it.
I have had a problem with "education" since the age of about 15 even though I am really into learning about things.

Gavin
23-05-2007, 11:52 PM
I taught an intro class, and I'd often get that question. When college is compulsory among a student body unenamored with learning or the meager qualifications they'll have with a degree, efficiency is the prime goal -- cut off all those interesting tangents, just tell us what to put in the blank!

The question I loathe more is "When is this going to be useful to me in life?" which roughly translates to "How will this make me money?" Fortunately I taught Introduction to Popular Culture, so the low instrumentality of the course material was already assumed by the students.

don_quixote
24-05-2007, 12:28 AM
it's a pretty obvious consequence when youre in a position like me where i'm about to sit my 8th consecutive year of june exams. admittedly the ones in year 10 were of little real consequence and only one mattered but whatever. i cannot wait til this is all over and i can start thinking beyond a curriculum again.

too. many. exams.

Mr. Tea
24-05-2007, 01:37 AM
At the risk of sounding like a raving lunatic, I actually quite like exams - University exams, at any rate; I'd far rather revise for exams than do coursework (which probably explains why my PhD is dragging a bit... :)). But at Uni level, at least in any course that's worth doing, you have to understand what you've been taught in order to pass, or at least get a half-decent grade, rather than simply recite facts or go through some blind, mechanical procedure. In fact coursework (at school) can be just as bad in this respect as exams; potentially worse, in fact, since in this day and age of Google and Wikipedia (hehe, sounding like an old man now) there's no garuantee it's even the kids' own words.

Catbwoy
29-05-2007, 07:08 AM
I would have thought that the answer to Google/Wiki cheating is simply to check a students answers against the first few results that Google throws up. Wouldn't most of them type in the subject at hand and then use the first pages results to steal from?

Or is your average student a bit more savvy then that?

jenks
29-05-2007, 09:29 AM
English kids are the most over assessed students in the world - there's some research which actually counts the number of exam papers, hours etc and it all makes horrifying reading for teachers like me who entered the profession to actually pass on their love of their subject.

It is interesting to note that even the govt are starting to listen with the wholly discredited Y9 exams looking almost certain to go. However, the major problem is the almost Maoist state of permanent revolution in the education sector - all new A levels coming in 18 months, total review of coursework in GCSE, new qualifications for vocational subjects, Brown suggesting compulsory full time education till 18 etc.

The point you make is that kids want to know if it's on the exam - they've been made this pragmatic by the system - although i might add that when you have them in the classroom for three/four hours a week you can do a lot of off piste stuff but if they are paying you by the hour then maybe they are expecting you to give them stuff which will get them the grades? Isn't that the principle behind private schooling?

Mr. Tea
29-05-2007, 02:29 PM
It is interesting to note that even the govt are starting to listen with the wholly discredited Y9 exams looking almost certain to go. However, the major problem is the almost Maoist state of permanent revolution in the education sector - all new A levels coming in 18 months, total review of coursework in GCSE, new qualifications for vocational subjects, Brown suggesting compulsory full time education till 18 etc.

Yeah, I've heard this complaint before - namely, that a less-than-perfect system that is just left alone for five or ten years at a stretch, so we could at least have a chance to see how well it performs and then make changes to it, if necessary - would be preferable to the state of permanent flux it's in at the moment.


The point you make is that kids want to know if it's on the exam - they've been made this pragmatic by the system - although i might add that when you have them in the classroom for three/four hours a week you can do a lot of off piste stuff but if they are paying you by the hour then maybe they are expecting you to give them stuff which will get them the grades? Isn't that the principle behind private schooling?
Yes, that's fair enough, and it's something I've been telling myself too - what was bugging me is the sometimes fanatical resistance to learning anything not strictly syllabus (and I'm not talking about going off on an irrelevant ten-minute tangent here, I mean mentioning something briefly and then moving straight on). After all, even though something might not be on the exam, it might help them understand something that is.

mixed_biscuits
30-05-2007, 11:22 PM
Off-piste thinking isn't being encouraged in the current exam system, as the opportunity for multiple, modular retakes and highly prescriptive mark-schemes makes the whole process too mechanical.

Coursework, which offers ample opportunity for independent work, is also now ruined because of rampant plagiarism.

Further papers like S-Levels and STEP give students the chance to use the fruits of individual study.

Only changing the shape of the hoops (or reducing their number) that students have to jump through will lead them to adjust their approach.

I say get rid of AS Levels and give teachers the chance to do something interesting for a year while the students have a break from exams.

I also enjoyed exams (as long as they mattered - not fakes like flipping KS3 SAT tests). I used to get proper psyched up for them.

As a teacher, my prime aim is not to communicate a love of subject to the kids, but of the pleasures of academic success - knowing the stuff inside out; organising yourself - and kicking other people's asses when it counts. *EVIL LAUGH*

hundredmillionlifetimes
31-05-2007, 12:21 AM
As a teacher, my prime aim is not to communicate a love of subject to the kids, but of the pleasures of academic success - knowing the stuff inside out; organising yourself - and kicking other people's asses when it counts. *EVIL LAUGH*

Then don't complain when those kids, in turn, treat you like a piece of shit (abuse begetting abuse, and all that ...).

Such hedonic ego-maniacal "academic" careerism is central to the very causes of the current near-terminal rot in education. Machiavelli would have served you up on a (semestered, full-time student equivalent) platter ... [HIDEOUS GRIN]

http://www.michaellorenzen.com/Machiavelli.jpe

jenks
31-05-2007, 12:10 PM
Off-piste thinking isn't being encouraged in the current exam system, as the opportunity for multiple, modular retakes and highly prescriptive mark-schemes makes the whole process too mechanical.



I know it's not encouraged but it can happen quite naturally in all kinds of ways. Which is exactly why ridiculous lesson plan formats are daft - as if you can lock down every aspect of the hour you are with them.

i'll often say to them that something will probably never be required for the examination but may well be interesting. I also tell them that i hate revision mare than anything else, as i've already taught the stuff to them.

I'd lose the AS levels, all SATs KS 1, 2 and 3! Ban modular exams and get rid of coursework and replace it with a teacher assessed overall level worth 25%. I'd also be interested in something like the IB if it could lose all of its snooty associations.

My heart sinks every August - obviously your evil laugh resounds round the halls of academe in exhultation:p

Mr. Tea
31-05-2007, 02:19 PM
Then don't complain when those kids, in turn, treat you like a piece of shit (abuse begetting abuse, and all that ...).

I don't see what's wrong with a bit of competition, especially between the more able kids. I remember there being a friendly rivalry between me and a handful of other high achievers when I was at high school. I mean, most people push themselves a bit harder when they're comparing their own achievements to those of others, don't they?

(Oh yes, I remember: competition is awful because it discourages the less able, and should therefore be banned. Sorry, my bad.)

vimothy
31-05-2007, 02:25 PM
Teaching to the exam:

I work for a maths ed research project looking at the transition from college to university and this comes up a lot...

vimothy
31-05-2007, 02:28 PM
English kids are the most over assessed students in the world - there's some research which actually counts the number of exam papers, hours etc and it all makes horrifying reading for teachers like me who entered the profession to actually pass on their love of their subject.

It is interesting to note that even the govt are starting to listen with the wholly discredited Y9 exams looking almost certain to go. However, the major problem is the almost Maoist state of permanent revolution in the education sector - all new A levels coming in 18 months, total review of coursework in GCSE, new qualifications for vocational subjects, Brown suggesting compulsory full time education till 18 etc.

Someone told me recently that there are currently 58 separate initiatives running in schools.

hundredmillionlifetimes
01-06-2007, 12:26 AM
I don't see what's wrong with a bit of competition ...

It wasn't about competition, but narcissism: the poster was confusing (or equating) educaton with the indoctrination of the dominant - anti-intellectual, hedonistic - ideology ("the pleasure of academic success").

mixed_biscuits
01-06-2007, 10:51 AM
It wasn't about competition, but narcissism: the poster was confusing (or equating) educaton with the indoctrination of the dominant - anti-intellectual, hedonistic - ideology ("the pleasure of academic success").

The main thing I had in mind (apart from the 'kicking ass' bait which was swallowed so predictably - hey, we're all different! :D) is that it is useful for kids not only to enjoy the subjects for the subjects' sakes but also enjoy 'doing well at the job that they have been given,' even if it doesn't fire them up immediately - in other words to strive for the A in Woodwork as well as in English Lit.

Achieving academically and finding satisfaction in one's achievements is hardly anti-intellectual, unless if intellectual = those self-regarding under-achievers I knew at university who sneered at the 'careerist drones' who actually did the work that was required of them, rather than smoking in their rooms, listening to the Herbalizer and talking crap.

In any case, if it takes a bit of competition to get the kids to treat the stuff they have to learn seriously, then so be it. This especially applies to boys.

Hedonism? If you were to take pleasure entirely out of the process, you would have to wonder what any of us were in it for. ;)

Anyway, 100,000,000, tell us what your school day would look like - without the Critical Theory-speak. ;)

don_quixote
01-06-2007, 11:17 AM
they are careerist drones! half of them only ever talk about what bloody car theyre going to get when theyre rich. YUK

mixed_biscuits
01-06-2007, 11:28 AM
they are careerist drones! half of them only ever talk about what bloody car theyre going to get when theyre rich. YUK

Hahah - yeah, well there are the careerist drones and the 'careerist drones.' The latter are preferred!

There is a problem with being too much of a drone and academic people-pleaser: to borrow hundredmillion's idiom, you can become an unquestioning servant of the dominant ideology. Hey, but with Learning Objectives so pointedly provided for every lesson, the Man will never be able to sneak anything by us - right, kids?! ;)

Gavin
01-06-2007, 09:06 PM
to borrow hundredmillion's idiom, you can become an unquestioning servant of the dominant ideology.

Yes, but doesn't inculcating an attitude of "doing well at the job that they have been given" simply turn students into these drones? I think the passive voice in that phrase is telling. "Whatever you are made to do, do it and LIKE IT." I'm reminded of Zizek's parable of the "postmodern" father who doesn't simply force his child to go to Grandma's house, but guilts him into "wanting" to go -- "You know how much your grandmother loves you, don't you want to go see her?"

I do understand the frustration with "self-regarding underachievers" -- it's annoying when the work one puts in to teaching a course goes unheeded and unacknowledged, and even scorned by students who are perfectly capable of doing the work, and there's no doubt strains of apathy tied up with it. Still, some of those students, while frustrating at times, were the most interesting thinkers (especially on my campus, a very conformist state university in the rural U.S. midwest -- oops, the topic says 'Britain').

And I think I learned something by smoking in my room and talking crap (not listening to Herbaliser though, ha! Maybe Autechre?). Maybe not in terms of testable abilities, but a certain mode of critical thinking and skepticism... I don't know, maybe that was already there and lead to all the smoking and crap-talking once I got to college.

mixed_biscuits
01-06-2007, 10:29 PM
Yes, but doesn't inculcating an attitude of "doing well at the job that they have been given" simply turn students into these drones? I think the passive voice in that phrase is telling. "Whatever you are made to do, do it and LIKE IT."

Heh, I think what I would be trying to encourage is the ability to delay gratification and knuckle down. I am quite open with students in explaining that any field has its share of wonders but, at the same time, requires of its aspiring experts periods of self-denial - when you might have to commit to long periods of difficult practice and blunt (self-) evaluation, whether it be ploughing through differential equations or a long Balzac in the original French or internalising scales at the piano.

Obviously, I wouldn't want students to turn into easily manipulated drones, so my advice for a student would simply be, when confronted with a possible project:

1) Ask yourself: in YOUR opinion, is there value to doing this?

2) Ask yourself: is what is required of me reasonable, morally and practically?

3) Ask yourself: am I prepared to get down to the work and finish the job?

If all three check out (imho many PhDs fail at no.1, which impacts on no.3 once you hit the second year!), then you just gotta get down to it!

One problem is that it is often hard to work out 1) before doing a lot of 3) and even after finishing 3), 2) might be a tough one to answer. And so, to an extent, the teacher must be trusted.


Still, some of those students, while frustrating at times, were the most interesting thinkers (especially on my campus, a very conformist state university in the rural U.S. midwest -- oops, the topic says 'Britain').

Absolutely agree - and I dare say that often the tediousness of many lectures, unimaginative essay titles and general lack of interest of many tutors in their charges' progress leads to a lack of application and a diminished sense of involvement in the intellectual life of the institution.

It is a pity that much potential is 'lost' through lack of application - creative, interesting, possibly new thinking should prove its mettle by tussling with the best that has been thought thus far and, if surviving intact, should be recorded, so that others may benefit. That's what academia's for.


Maybe not in terms of testable abilities, but a certain mode of critical thinking and skepticism... I don't know, maybe that was already there and lead to all the smoking and crap-talking once I got to college.

Haha - probably! ;)

Mr. Tea
02-06-2007, 12:03 AM
Yes, but doesn't inculcating an attitude of "doing well at the job that they have been given" simply turn students into these drones? I think the passive voice in that phrase is telling. "Whatever you are made to do, do it and LIKE IT."

But this is - or should be - completely irrelevant at the university level, and (ideally) even at A-level: no-one's made you study the subject ("given you the job"), you chose it yourself!
If you don't like it, it's your own fault for not choosing better in the first place.

Gavin
02-06-2007, 12:14 AM
But this is - or should be - completely irrelevant at the university level, and (ideally) even at A-level: no-one's made you study the subject ("given you the job"), you chose it yourself!


Well, I am not entirely familiar with the British university system, but in the states college is basically compulsory for the middle class (though they pay through the nose), and as the secondary schools get shittier and colleges lower admittance standards because they are broke, college increasingly turns into High School 2. Most of my students aren't there out of choice (although many want to go to college, this was already guaranteed for them), and most have no idea what they are doing or why. They are just putting in their time, same as high school. Many have never really written a paper, almost none have ever done anything close to academic research, many do not even read the textbooks.

And can't you use the "you chose this job yourself" argument in any number of situations in our "free employment" economy? I've "chosen" many jobs I haven't particularly liked or desired, but I did them because I had to. Luckily no one was demanding I enjoy it!


If you don't like it, it's your own fault for not choosing better in the first place.

This sort of smells of neoliberal fetishization of the individual where your fate is completely determined by your own choices... like you could slip into castigating "welfare mothers" for being poor because they are lazy at any minute. You must be very happy in your program!

Mr. Tea
02-06-2007, 03:19 PM
This sort of smells of noliberal fetishization of the individual where your fate is completely determined by your own choices... like you could slip into castigating "welfare mothers" for being poor because they are lazy at any minute. You must be very happy in your program!


Oh come on: who but the craziest hardline anarcho-libertarian - the sort of person who stockpiles their basement with bottled water, canned food and ammunition - would seriously claim this? I could equally well rant about the tendency of many leftists to imagine that we're all mindless zombie automata without free will or personal responsibility, helplessly wandering here and there according to the will of big business, media and government. Which is quite clearly complete tosh, as well. As ever, the truth lies somewhere between the two extremes: yes, we're all products of our environment and we're all born with different levels of advantage which we can do nothing about; but at the same time we still have free will and the choice to live one way or another.

Back to the topic at hand, I said you only have yourself to blame if you take up a degree (at a UK university) that you're not interested in, unless you've been seriously pressured into it by your parents, or something. If you do it because you think it'll be 'a laugh', or because 'Eng Lit chicks are hot', then I can hardly see how it's anyone else's fault if you don't exactly excel at it.

(Edit: I'm not sure what "welfare mothers" have to do with this - they aren't poor (at least in the UK) precisely because they get benefits. I'm not saying this is a bad thing - it's certainly preferable to having hoards of destitute women and kids all over the place, obviously - but then, people would probably be a bit more careful about not having kids they can't support if there wasn't any welfare, wouldn't they?)

Edward
02-06-2007, 03:40 PM
What if you take up a degree or A-Level in a subject you want to learn about, only to find that all that is on offer or required is memorisation of facts/formulae, original thought is not encouraged, nor required nor rewarded?
Sometimes the subject is interesting but the curriculum / teaching aims leave a lot to be desired.

This was definitely my experience of A-levels.

Mr. Tea
02-06-2007, 04:59 PM
What if you take up a degree or A-Level in a subject you want to learn about, only to find that all that is on offer or required is memorisation of facts/formulae, original thought is not encouraged, nor required nor rewarded?
Sometimes the subject is interesting but the curriculum / teaching aims leave a lot to be desired.

This was definitely my experience of A-levels.

Yeah, I guess this is always a risk - as I said, "...this is - or should be - completely irrelevant...".
I've found myself that my PhD has been a lot less interesting than I thought it would be, but then, perhaps I should have done a bit more research about what a PhD in my field entails before signing up for one.

mixed_biscuits
02-06-2007, 06:02 PM
What if you take up a degree or A-Level in a subject you want to learn about, only to find that all that is on offer or required is memorisation of facts/formulae, original thought is not encouraged, nor required nor rewarded?

Ask your prof for extra, more interesting work or do some off your own back? Find out why you need a stockpile of facts? Change subjects? Do S-Levels too? Campaign to have the system changed?

Or just eat it and plough through the courses anyway. :D

Slothrop
02-06-2007, 06:31 PM
Yes, but doesn't inculcating an attitude of "doing well at the job that they have been given" simply turn students into these drones?
I think the point is less about doing well at the job you've been given than about developing the self discipline to sit down and do the hard or tedious stuff that has to be done for whatever reason, so that whether you eventually decide to overthrow the state by armed rebellion or to make fat stacks of cash as an investment banker you can actually go out and do it rather than rapidly losing interest and following the path of least resistance.

don_quixote
04-06-2007, 09:41 PM
i dont enjoy my degree, but that's because i think the exams are an ass and it's really badly taught (and i probably should have heeded the warnings about the subject).

i loved a-levels.

don_quixote
04-06-2007, 09:46 PM
actually no, it's not that i should have heeded the warnings, it's their fault not mine. i need to stop blaming myself when i've been let down.

vimothy
05-06-2007, 02:50 PM
This sort of smells of neoliberal fetishization of the individual where your fate is completely determined by your own choices... like you could slip into castigating "welfare mothers" for being poor because they are lazy at any minute. You must be very happy in your program!

Aaarararrrarraggghghgghghh!

vimothy
05-06-2007, 03:04 PM
And can't you use the "you chose this job yourself" argument in any number of situations in our "free employment" economy? I've "chosen" many jobs I haven't particularly liked or desired, but I did them because I had to. Luckily no one was demanding I enjoy it!

Your choice is poverty or make a positive contribution to society and earn a living from that. It's the same choice for everybody pretty much throughout history. Nobody said you will enjoy it!

Edward
05-06-2007, 04:30 PM
What to do about poor/pointless courses:



Mixed Biscuits

Ask your prof for extra, more interesting work or do some off your own back? Find out why you need a stockpile of facts? Change subjects? Do S-Levels too? Campaign to have the system changed?

Or just eat it and plough through the courses anyway

Well yeah... in fact what I did was get angry and disillusioned and mess it all up, and I got round to learning stuff by myself a few years later but with no qualifications at the end of it.

You are right but I think it's very hard for a 15-17 year old to come to that line of thinking and very unlikely they are going to be able to change anything about the education system from their position.

I was trying to put forward the idea that it's a shame so many syllabuses (syllabi?) just teach you how to pass the exam and not much more, and really it's letting down everyone.
Yes you can easily get a qualification if you can be bothered to do some simple work but you don't actually learn about the subject much. You can go off and learn about it in your own time but you won't be rewarded with any recognised qualifications.
So you can learn in a shallow memorising way and get a qualification and maybe a job.
Or you can learn more deeply and not get a qualification and find it harder to get a job.
(yes, you could do both but what a twisted system!)

If you are an employer, you have no way to know how much someone really understands about a subject by looking at their exam results because so little real understanding is required to get good grades at GCSEs and A Levels. You can just see if they are a good "knuckle down"-er.

OK I'm exaggerating for effect, some courses are probably very good. These were my feelings when I was at school.... and it's not just me making excuses for being thick.... i was one of the top students at my school before I got tired of it all.

Gavin
05-06-2007, 06:50 PM
Your choice is poverty or make a positive contribution to society and earn a living from that. It's the same choice for everybody pretty much throughout history. Nobody said you will enjoy it!

Poverty as a choice! We really do live in the best of all possible worlds!

vimothy
06-06-2007, 01:47 PM
Poverty as a choice! We really do live in the best of all possible worlds!

Poverty would probably be the default option. Making a living and surviving is the choice, the active solution. Even hunter gatherers are faced with the possibility of either bumming around all day or going out and getting some food.

Society shouldn't need to solve your problems for you

Pulchritude
08-06-2007, 06:27 PM
Iím currently sitting my A Levels and the whole system, where I have to abdicate my own opinion for the sake of complying with the curriculum, really riles me. I remember that, when preparing for GCSE History and English exams, I was specifically told not to specify my own opinion and simply be as impartial as possible when answering essay questions. Although I have been given more freedom whilst studying A Level History and English Lit. for the past two years, Iíve found that my peers have become so used to the complacency of being totally neutral that, when asked to offer their opinion on an issue, theyíre indecisive and not used to it.

As for the people in this thread who are teachers, I have a lot of respect for you. I would never, ever dream of becoming a teacher, having witnessed what kids get away with classrooms these days; and Iíve spent the past seven years in an inoffensive, well-behaved Grammar School!



I was trying to put forward the idea that it's a shame so many syllabuses (syllabi?) just teach you how to pass the exam and not much more, and really it's letting down everyone.
Yes you can easily get a qualification if you can be bothered to do some simple work but you don't actually learn about the subject much. You can go off and learn about it in your own time but you won't be rewarded with any recognised qualifications.
So you can learn in a shallow memorising way and get a qualification and maybe a job.
Or you can learn more deeply and not get a qualification and find it harder to get a job.
(yes, you could do both but what a twisted system!)
I agree. The system is so formulaic and it seems that the stock learning of facts is all that is needed to get high grades, which I also believe is a predominant reason explaining why, for want of a better term, absolute idiots can get good grades. There's no need for higher intelligence or genuine passion for a subject. As you've also said, my reasons for thinking this do not stem from me being an embittered poor-achiever,as I'm far from it, but just a total disillusionment with the system which has caused me to wonder why I should even be bothering at all.

mixed_biscuits
08-06-2007, 08:45 PM
Iíve found that my peers have become so used to the complacency of being totally neutral that, when asked to offer their opinion on an issue, theyíre indecisive and not used to it.

Yeah, this state of affairs isn't helped by most teachers' wish to 'empower' their students by flaccidly accepting everything that they say, meaning that every classroom 'debate' proceeds in an indistinct, superficial manner, as discussion jumps from one vaguely relevant, unstructured point to another.

OR there is meaty debate and it does end up somewhere interesting but inevitably miles away from the pot-at-the-end-of-the-rainbow that is the 'learning objective,' whereupon new discoveries have to be discarded to toe the curriculum line.

The prevailing flaccidity of opinion has also come about because teachers themselves (and certainly the teacher trainers that I've known) think that demonstrating strong or clear-cut views on anything, excepting the odd socially-acceptable 'strong' (parroted) views that are occasionally 'legitimised' by mass repetition eg. 'STOP THE WAR!,' is a sign of a closed mind or too muscular a flexing of one's authority.

jenks
08-06-2007, 11:02 PM
Lots of differnt ideas coming through here.

There is skill in constructing an argument rather than just leaping to the first thing you think of - the art of rhetoric certainly has its place. Too often argument turns into a might is right event - witness he (and it usually is he) who shouts loudest as the default method of debate. If a teacher brings in an element of constriction i.e. arguing from a unusual pov - that's good isn't it?

i'd suggest despite the wailing to the contrary that most contributors here have had some good teachers - nearly everyone is able to construct their arguments soundly

Most, if not all of the people contributing here are winners (if dissatisfied) in the educational sysytem - you have choices, they may seem invidious but they are choices. The boy in my class who cannot read the word 'moon' at 14 seems to me to be a person for whom the system really does not work. It's not about teaching towards some illusory examintion but instead giving him some kind of skill to get through life.

Finally, I don't see what's wrong with a learning objective, I'd rather a teacher had some idea of what it is that they wants their class to learn than the vague mumblings and 'get on with it yourself' education that i suffered in the 70s and 80s.

mixed_biscuits
08-06-2007, 11:43 PM
Finally, I don't see what's wrong with a learning objective, I'd rather a teacher had some idea of what it is that they wants their class to learn than the vague mumblings and 'get on with it yourself' education that i suffered in the 70s and 80s.

I agree that having an idea of what you are supposed to be learning can be empowering for students and serve to focus the teacher's efforts.

However, learning objectives can be too prescriptive and, as the teacher tends to be 'working towards' them, can restrict the scope of some lessons. LO-driven teaching - teaching that has greater designs (ie the predicted 'learning outcomes') on the learner than the errant rambling of yore - can sometimes be particularly irritating for the more creative, intelligent student. They might disagree with the Learning Outcomes: for example, if they are something like: 'by reading passage X, we can see that technique Y lets us see Z about character A' (which, granted, would be a decent challenge for many students), or, if they do agree with the Outcomes, they may spot them coming a mile off and, feeling that their responses have been second-guessed, contribute only half-heartedly for the remainder of the lesson.

It was amusing (and depressing) seeing the less nimble tutors at University struggle when confronted with useful, correct but 'off-message' points that they could neither integrate satisfactorily into their objective nor dismiss convincingly - this is stressful for the teacher as the lesson can then be a 'failure,' even if the class has actually learnt more than they would have otherwise - by taking a longer, more scenic route, but ending up at the 'wrong' destination.

Pulchritude
08-06-2007, 11:47 PM
Finally, I don't see what's wrong with a learning objective, I'd rather a teacher had some idea of what it is that they wants their class to learn than the vague mumblings and 'get on with it yourself' education that i suffered in the 70s and 80s.
From what Iíve read, I donít believe anyone in this thread has any argument with that, itís just that itís escalated to suffocating levels of control; thereís a difference between having teaching objectives and force-feeding students all the information.

I definitely wouldnít knock my teachers because, on the whole, my experiences with them have been quite positive. For the most part, Iíve had teachers who have been willing to allow us to discuss issues, and introduced different views, whilst still being able to correct the ideas of a student who is clearly wrong. I just think that, if given more scope within the teaching guidelines, they could help to develop students into something much more than a robotic exam-taking machines since, at the moment, the only chance we ever used to get to discuss a world outside of textbooks was in PSHE lessons, and they're generally renowned for being total doss lessons.

noel emits
09-06-2007, 12:27 AM
I'm going to pick on Vimothy because I don't agree with these posts.


Your choice is poverty or make a positive contribution to society and earn a living from that. It's the same choice for everybody pretty much throughout history. Nobody said you will enjoy it!

Lots of things people (have to) do to earn money might make a positive contribution to their boss's / company shareholders' bank accounts, but not necessarily to society.


Poverty would probably be the default option. Making a living and surviving is the choice, the active solution. Even hunter gatherers are faced with the possibility of either bumming around all day or going out and getting some food.

Society shouldn't need to solve your problems for you

Would hunter-gatherers really have to work 40+ hour weeks to survive in most places?
Even if they did I bet they wouldn't be anywhere near so alienated from what they are doing as huge numbers of workers are today.


Society shouldn't need to solve your problems for you

What if, just maybe, those problems had something to do with deficiencies in the structure of 'society'?

More topically, I think there should be much more emphasis in education on discovering the individual aptitudes and passions of students, helping them to find out where they can make the best contribution.

noel emits
09-06-2007, 12:05 PM
Et Tea too.


But this is - or should be - completely irrelevant at the university level, and (ideally) even at A-level: no-one's made you study the subject ("given you the job"), you chose it yourself!
If you don't like it, it's your own fault for not choosing better in the first place.

What about those students choosing absolutely the correct subjects only to find themselves at the mercy of institutions run by jaded staff whose only interest is in ticking the boxes and maintaining their tenures? Not to mention then being surrounded by cynical students who have a similar level of disengagement with the subject and paradoxically end up more easily fulfilling the box-ticking learning objectives (and troubling the tutors less)?

K-Punk has been very good on this stuff recently btw. Especially re. the nature of privilege and the way class structures maintain themselves in education.

http://k-punk.abstractdynamics.org/archives/009421.html
http://k-punk.abstractdynamics.org/archives/009383.html

mixed_biscuits
09-06-2007, 01:56 PM
More topically, I think there should be much more emphasis in education on discovering the individual aptitudes and passions of students, helping them to find out where they can make the best contribution.

What changes would you make to do this more effectively?

thraiped
10-06-2007, 10:20 AM
http://observer.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,,2099635,00.html

Call to ban all school exams for under-16s

∑ Damning verdict on culture of testing
∑ Stressed pupils 'in state of panic'

Anushka Asthana, education correspondent
Sunday June 10, 2007
The Observer

All national exams should be abolished for children under 16 because the stress caused by over-testing is poisoning attitudes towards education, according to an influential teaching body.

In a remarkable attack on the government's policy of rolling national testing of children from the age of seven, the General Teaching Council is calling for a 'fundamental and urgent review of the testing regime'. In a report it says exams are failing to improve standards, leaving pupils demotivated and stressed and encouraging bored teenagers to drop out of school.
....

Mr. Tea
11-06-2007, 02:05 PM
What about those students choosing absolutely the correct subjects only to find themselves at the mercy of institutions run by jaded staff whose only interest is in ticking the boxes and maintaining their tenures? Not to mention then being surrounded by cynical students who have a similar level of disengagement with the subject and paradoxically end up more easily fulfilling the box-ticking learning objectives (and troubling the tutors less)?


Well what about it? It's obviously very unfortunate for any students who end up in that situation, and ideally all universities would employ only excellent teachers who love their subject, love imparting their enthuisiasm for it in their students and teach it in an interesting and dynamic way. Of course this isn't always going to be the case in real life.
On the other hand, students are meant to be responsible for taking charge of their own learning at least to an extent by the time they get to university, so if a particular course has a crap lecturer it should still in principle be possible for you to buy a good textbook and teach yourself enough material to at least pass the exam.

noel emits
11-06-2007, 02:32 PM
On the other hand, students are meant to be responsible for taking charge of their own learning at least to an extent by the time they get to university, so if a particular course has a crap lecturer it should still in principle be possible for you to buy a good textbook and teach yourself enough material to at least pass the exam.

In the sciences maybe, but not so easy with subjects that are marked on a more, subjective, basis.

Mr. Tea
11-06-2007, 02:43 PM
In the sciences maybe, but not so easy with subjects that are marked on a more, subjective, basis.

Yeah, I guess. What more can you say about this situation? Not all lecturers are inspiring; c'est la vie. You'd have to be pretty unlucky to end up in a university where they were all crap, though - or have performed so badly at school that you could only get into somewhere really rubbish, in which case you probably shouldn't be at uni at all.

don_quixote
11-06-2007, 04:58 PM
i completely disagree. if im going to pay £3k a year it's not naive to expect the university to do something for me as well. failure can't simply be blamed on a lack of industry.

mixed_biscuits
11-06-2007, 11:38 PM
if im going to pay £3k a year it's not naive to expect the university to do something for me as well.

Ach - stop complaining. For only three grand a year you get to sit in on irrelevant lectures, be patronised by jaded academics and alleviate the ennui that comes from the sudden absence of direct teaching and a healthy workload by sedating yourself with alcohol in a grothole student bar.

jenks
12-06-2007, 10:30 AM
http://observer.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,,2099635,00.html

Call to ban all school exams for under-16s

∑ Damning verdict on culture of testing
∑ Stressed pupils 'in state of panic'

Anushka Asthana, education correspondent
Sunday June 10, 2007
The Observer

All national exams should be abolished for children under 16 because the stress caused by over-testing is poisoning attitudes towards education, according to an influential teaching body.

In a remarkable attack on the government's policy of rolling national testing of children from the age of seven, the General Teaching Council is calling for a 'fundamental and urgent review of the testing regime'. In a report it says exams are failing to improve standards, leaving pupils demotivated and stressed and encouraging bored teenagers to drop out of school.
....

I think it's interesting that this is coming from the GTC - a body set up by the government that almost no teacher i know thinks is relevant - it seems to spend most of its time berating teachers and disciplining them for a range of offences (some as hienous as taking kids to the beach on a school trip but not mentioning it on your risk assessment).

Even the GTC can see there is a problem but the governement response is that the tests are going to be kept because...parents like them!

Nonsense, most parents don't understand what they are and would probably be relieved if their children didn;t have to do them.

When the GTC starts criticising the government :eek:

mixed_biscuits
12-06-2007, 11:14 AM
I think the pre-16 SATs tests are quite useful:

- As a dependable assessment tool for teachers, especially if students have suddenly turned up from other schools.

- As a way of holding teachers accountable if a particular child regresses (teacher assessment could mask this) or identifying teaching that is working particularly well.

- To ensure that the entire syllabus is treated and that teachers do not avoid topics that they find dull or difficult to cover (this especially applies to primary school, where some teachers would happily dump tricky things like fractions or unpleasant things like PE in winter if not for the National Curriculum)

- To give children practice for 'more important' tests - working under time pressure; keeping concentration levels up; checking work thoroughly.

- To allow children to prove themselves - especially if they find it hard to work diligently every lesson but have talent.

- To correct some of the bias in teachers' own assessments. Children armed with airs and graces are over-rated; troublesome students are under-rated - largely because the former make their successes more obvious to the teacher.

I find that the 'state of panic' is usually due to parents' anxieties - most kids are pretty
clear-headed about tests, or just uninterested.

To ban all exams pre-16 would be idiotic.

jenks
12-06-2007, 01:17 PM
Testing for pre-16s is not necessarily the problem.

Having the right kinds of assessment is - the SATs for KS3 English have to be the most widely discredited system for assessing pupil progress. Regularly marked poorly they prove little about how a child's literacy skills have improved (or not).

The Key Stage tests do not follow seamlessly from one to the other - there is nowhere on an English GCSE paper to demonstrate skills gained for doing a Reading paper at KS3. There is almost no requirement for essay writing at KS3 but it is pretty much all that is done at GCSE and A Level. Coursework doesn't exist for KS3 SATs but is hugely important at GCSE (at the moment)

Students are reduced to explaining the importnace of the third palm tree on the island rather than being allowed to actually discuss Stevenson's Treasure Island. The Tempest is reduced to two tiny passages. There is no sense that Literature is something to enjoyed but something instead from which we extract stuff.

There are many other assessment models out there but over and again QCA baulk at actually giving teachers something genuinely useful.

mixed_biscuits
12-06-2007, 01:57 PM
Testing for pre-16s is not necessarily the problem - having the right kinds of assessment is.

Students are reduced to explaining the importnace of the third palm tree on the island rather than being allowed to actually discuss Stevenson's Treasure Island. The Tempest is reduced to two tiny passages. There is no sense that Literature is something to enjoyed but something instead from which we extract stuff.

Yeah, from what I've seen of the literature SATs they seem to have too much of that kind of thing. The marking schemes I've seen are also very prescriptive (although I can see why this is required to try to ensure consistency).

You can enjoy literature outside of school - at school we pick it apart to see how it works! ;)

I assume that there is more assessed essay writing and coursework once out of KS3, as students gain confidence in writing and reading longer pieces.

I'm a maths teacher, so perhaps can profit more from regular testing - as the subject is intrinsically clearly structured and micro-manageable.


There are many other assessment models out there but over and again QCA baulk at actually giving teachers something genuinely useful.

Which assessment model would you use?

vimothy
13-06-2007, 12:31 PM
I'm going to pick on Vimothy because I don't agree with these posts.

Cool


Lots of things people (have to) do to earn money might make a positive contribution to their boss's / company shareholders' bank accounts, but not necessarily to society.

That would be a positive contribution. I don't mean positive in a moral sense, I mean positive in an active sense.


Would hunter-gatherers really have to work 40+ hour weeks to survive in most places?
Even if they did I bet they wouldn't be anywhere near so alienated from what they are doing as huge numbers of workers are today.

I'm not interested in romanticising the past, but even hunter gatherers would have to go out and hunt and gather to help feed their community


What if, just maybe, those problems had something to do with deficiencies in the structure of 'society'?

Deficiencies are always persent in any real, non-idealised society. What happens whern the crops fail? You figure it out or starve.


More topically, I think there should be much more emphasis in education on discovering the individual aptitudes and passions of students, helping them to find out where they can make the best contribution.

More choice! (Not very left wing though)!

Mr. Tea
12-06-2016, 01:36 PM
I'm marking some GCSE physics papers for pocket money while I look for a proper job.

It's worrying. Very worrying. And the stuff the kids are writing down - as nonsensical as some of it is - is worrying me less than some of the nonsense they're meant to be writing down according to the mark scheme.

And this government bangs on and on about the importance of STEM subjects!