#EDU8213: More Questions; A Couple Answers?

What knowledge and skills should a child have acquired by the age of 12 and how do we evidence it?

If you read about our first class meeting, you are likely one of the many individuals wondering if we came up with any answers to our first big question. The second meeting of EDU8213 was spent discussing just that, with some limited input from Dr. Mitra. In keeping with the style we have come to expect of Dr. Mitra, he had us split ourselves into groups to discuss the question to draw our own conclusions from conversation amongst ourselves without Dr. Mitra present. You can get a taste of each groups conversation from the notes taken during these conversations:



Dr. Mitra then came back and each group gave five minute overviews of our discussions before we were left alone again to aggregate all of our thoughts into one document for the entire class. We were instructed to create one page of information on the knowledge and skills a child of 12 should have acquired and another page about assessments and testing. Our results are below.

What knowledge and skills should a 12 year old have acquired?

  • Basic survival and life skills
  • Appropriate cultural knowledge
  • Personal and social skills
  • Critical and creative thinking
  • Working collaboratively
  • Self-awareness
  • Physical abilities
  • Discerning between useful and non-useful information
  • Effective problem solving
  • Communication skills
  • Empowerment
  • Using available resources to learn independently

How do we evidence it? What types of assessments?

  • Self-assessment
  • Testing at the beginning and continuously
  • Unpredictable testing
  • Presentations
  • Written assessments
  • Invisible  and continuous assessment
  • Guided inquiry
  • Contextual testing
  • Individualized learning
  • Peer-assessment
  • Practical exams
  • Coaching and monitoring
  • Flexibility in teaching and assessment

So there it is. The group response from a room full of post-graduate students to this question that incited discussion and debate. Personally, this list is just a start in my eyes. There is so much about the environment of traditional school that I have trouble parting from. Many of the items on this list (cultural norms, empathy, social skills, personal growth) come from interaction that occurs between living, breathing individuals in classrooms and at lunch tables. I recognize that Dr. Mitra is not advocating for children to be plopped in front of a screen eight hours a day with the internet and no human interaction; but I do worry about the affect an increased reliance on internet and screens will have on children’s brains in the long term. What pieces of our brains are stimulated by rote memorization? How much of that is essential to the building of more complex theories and thoughts? Is the teaching of literacy and numeracy to children necessary? If it’s at your fingertips is it necessary to memorize? What would you challenge? What would you add? Can these skills be acquired through self-organized learning environments? How do we assess children? Is there a place for standardized testing in today’s learning environments? Just because new technologies exist that could be used in the classroom, does it mean they should be? What are the long term consequences of a generation of individuals fully reliant on internet access and technology for basic skills?

A radical shift from traditional education is not going to happen overnight, and I don’t believe that it should. However, technology will forever be a part of the modern world, and if it can enhance and have an affect on the education of the next generation then we do have a responsibility to continue asking these questions, researching and exploring in an effort to keep education relevant to the world we live in today.

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