Equity, Rigor, Personalization

Ken Templeton | 11.5.2013

An equitable, rigorous, and personalized education system that prepares every student for college, careers, and global citizenship.

This is the vision of the Great Schools Partnership, and it motivates everything we do as an organization and as educators. The purpose of this blog is to share our thinking about what such a system would look like and how we can get there. While our organization is small, we work with thousands of teachers, school leaders, and educational agencies throughout New England and the country that share our vision and beliefs. We have learned a lot along the way, but we are always learning more and more every day.

And that’s why we created Learning from Teaching.

When many Americans think about improving public schools, they most likely think about big policies that get a lot of media attention, such as the No Child Left Behind Act or high-stakes testing. But as Larry Cuban and David Tyack point out in their wonderful history of school reform, Tinkering Toward Utopia, “policy-talk” alone won’t get us any improvements.

In our view, the “instructional core”—that is, the interaction among teachers, students, and content—is where the real action is. This blog will focus largely on the instructional core, connecting our readers with observations, lessons, reflections, and resources that will help teachers and others design more powerful learning experiences that will engage interests, encourage deeper thinking, and better prepare students for success—not only in school, but in life.

Bloom's Taxonomy Report Generated by iWalkthrough Classroom Observation

Bloom’s Taxonomy Report Generated by iWalkthrough Classroom Observation

In this space, we will discuss some of the things that make us think harder about equity, rigor, and personalization in schools, such as this graph from our work observing and documenting classroom practice. It describes the breakdown of Bloom’s Taxonomy levels (one measure of academic rigor) observed during 3-5 minute classroom observations conducted in 55 classrooms during the 2012-13 school year.

Almost half the time, students are engaged in tasks that require only remembering and understanding. It is pretty unlikely that today’s students spend half of their time remembering and understanding after they graduate, regardless of whether they go to college, enter the workforce, join the military, or pursue other educational and career opportunities.

In this blog, we want to ask why the graph looks this way? Is it because teachers sometimes think of Bloom’s Taxonomy as a ladder, instead of a continuum, and they ask students to complete lower-order tasks before they get a chance to analyze, evaluate, or create? Is it because our own school experiences were heavily focused on remembering and understanding facts? Is it because analytical tasks seem to take up more class time, and teachers feel increasing pressure to cover the entire curriculum and prepare students for standardized tests?

These are the kinds of questions that are at the heart of teaching and learning in schools, and this particular question will be the topic of our first series of blog posts: shifting student learning experiences up the Bloom’s Taxonomy continuum.

We hope that you find this blog informative and useful, but we also hope you will contribute by adding your comments, discussing posts with colleagues, or sharing through social media. We want this blog to become a space where educators who dedicated to excellent instruction for every student can connect, share, and learn.


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