Find out….and teach it.

For any group interested in engaging in “Results Based Accountability” one of the first steps is to establish a common language.  The development of a common language is not to benefit people “on the inside”.  Instead, it is the first act of accountability that makes the work transparent to everyone “on the outside”.  No acronyms, no complex terms, no jargon.  Language that is easily understood by anyone you may be chatting with.

In a speech to the British Institute of Management in 1977, Kingman Brewster Jr (an educator, president of Yale University, and American diplomat) commented that “Incomprehensible jargon is the hallmark of a profession.”  There is no doubt that education is a profession but it left me wondering, what would “Edu speak” look like if it was re-written into straightforward, common, language?

  • Differentiated Learning: Find out what each student doesn’t know and teach it to them.
  • Gap Closing: Find out what groups of students don’t know (but would be expected to know) and teach it to them.
  • InterventionsTeaching students things they do not know (but need to know).
  • Inquiry based learning: Find out what a student(s) doesn’t know/wants to know and explore the answer alongside them.
  • Diagnostic Assessment: Find out what a student doesn’t know.  Use this information to know what to teach them.
  • Formative Assessment: Find out what a student still doesn’t know.  Use this information to know what to teach them.
  • Summative Assessment: Find out what a student knows.  Give this information to the next teacher so they know what to teach them.

The pattern is easy to see with these examples.  Have I made it too simple? There is the action of “finding out” and the act of arriving at new knowledge by “teaching them” (which includes exploration, inquiry etc.).

After years of academic study, practical experience and in-services, educators are quickly drawn to the second action of “teaching them”.  Hours are devoted to long range plans and lesson plans.  But who is better off if those plans do not relate to an actual student need? It is the “finding out” (often called assessment or evaluation) that takes time and, more importantly, determines what action is going to be most meaningful.

Lewis Carroll is often attributed with the statement “If you do not know where you are going, then any road will get you there.”  However, the exchange this misquotation is based on is more interesting:

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where–” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.
“–so long as I get SOMEWHERE,” Alice added as an explanation.
“Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.”

Teaching will get you somewhere.  There will be lots of hours in class, lots of plans written, lots of expectations of students and you will always arrive at a new year with a new class.  But what is needed by the students in the class right now? If you hear the statement “You should know this by now” you can be certain that the person saying it recognizes a need/a learning gap.  The only question left is whether action will follow.

Knowledge and action.  You shouldn’t have one without the other.

Knowledge without action is trivia.
Action without knowledge is busywork.

At the end of the day, it should be easy to see, easy to understand, and easy to explain in common language.


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