A New Idea for Education

I’ve got an idea. Not sure if it is a new one, but I came up with it while reading the introduction to Data Driven by Thomas C. Redman. The importance of businesses really knowing who their customers were on an individual basis was mentioned and I thought about how I could apply that idea. I work in the institutional research office of a community college. I have done formal teaching/training, but I have not taught semester long courses. This idea comes primarily from my personal experience in education. It is not based on any empirical research, but does relate to my understanding of some educational theory.

I know that when I teach, I became more effective over the length of the course because of what I learn about the students’ strengths and weaknesses. I believe and have confirmed anecdotally that at the end of a tutoring relationship, course, semester or year, teachers know more about their students and are more effective.

At the end of the term that knowledge is lost. There is no way for a future teacher to benefit from the information gained. The knowledge of the students’ strengths and weaknesses has not been added to or refined. The students also may not have learned more about their learning strengths and weaknesses in ways that they can apply to future education.

Instead there could be a system which could collect knowledge about the students’ learning styles and make it available to the student and future teachers. This would help the teacher better plan their educational approach and it would help the student plan their learning approach. Right now, teachers can access student present and past transcripts. This gives them a broad stoke of information about the student’s past, but more specific information may help them teach better.

Initial sources of information might include:

· Placement test results – perhaps broken down beyond a single score to show what areas of the test were successful and which were not.

· Learning style inventories.

· Student’s self report of strengths and weaknesses.

Then as education continues:

· Past teacher’s impressions and reflections on the standardized information above.

· Results of various types of assignments in past classes.

· Reports from tutors or support teachers.

· Additional standardized inventories.

I’m not sure exactly what kind of information would be useful at this point. One traditional kind of information is so-called “learning styles”; that is whether a person is better at absorbing information through auditory, visual, kinesthetic or reading channels. I’m not sure how valid learning styles are, or if they are applied properly, but it is one possible dimension of a learning profile. Other possible dimensions may answer the question, Does the student learn better:

· in a classroom or on-line?

· with a passive or an active teacher?

· under time pressure or without?

· in groups or individually?

· in large or small classes?

· It might also tell if a student best shares their knowledge (testing) by writing essays, speaking, answering open ended or multiple choice questions, under time pressure or without.

I’m sure there are many other dimensions; those are just a few to throw out.

This knowledge does not mean that all of a student’s differences must be accommodated, but it does give more information which can make teaching and learning more effective. Strengthening weaknesses may be just as important as taking advantages of strengths. Such knowledge may also help in career placement.

The information gained would be available to students and hopefully to teachers. Perhaps when a course roster is received, it would also include information about the class as a whole and/or about individual students. Training for staff would be required so they would know how to be most effective with various students. There is a privacy concern which should be addressed.

I’ll think about this some more and perhaps it might be a good enough idea to pursue. For now, it’s out here and maybe it will help someone.


SchreiberBike said...

Additional "Thoughts On:" on this concept at http://schreiberbike.blogspot.com/2009/05/by-our-pupils-well-be-taught.html

Thank you,