Models are interesting things.
They both are and are not the thing they represent. So, for example, a model of Jupiter points to but can never be the real Jupiter. A painting, an appropriately colored Styrofoam ball, or a set of mathematical equations can serve as a model of that glorious planet, but in most cases the model fails to be what it aspires to be.
Models, of course, help us manage the unmanageable. They bring down in scale magnificent objects so we can play with them in ways that would be impossible without the model. We magnify reality, splice it up and study that piece to better understand both the whole and that piece’s place in the whole.
As long as we keep in mind that the model is a model…an abstraction of reality, then it serves its purpose.
The great reason, I think, that there are so many passing fancies in education is because educators mistakenly take models as reality. To return to my example, once we get convinced that our Styrofoam ball of Jupiter is so real that it practically IS Jupiter, we feel comfortable forgetting about the real Jupiter. Eventually, our model’s flaws are exposed and we become disappointed in “Jupiter” when in fact we should be disappointed in our model our reliance on our model as reality.
When we adopt a system in education that seems to be backed up by particular data (and most data is particular…that is, it is of a certain group of students in a certain demographic area with certain strengths and weaknesses at a certain time) and that data is then generalized into a system and applied, we must remember that the system should not be treated as a replacement for our classroom’s reality.
Veteran teachers are always commenting “Wait a couple years and this will be gone.”
We recoil from “fads” when we mistake movements like the flipped classroom, genius hour, New Jersey writing project, and so on for reality. Not every kid or teacher or lesson needs to flip their classroom (and I’m not suggesting that flip fans argue this). The circumstances of your classroom should determine which system or combination of systems should be used to best address the needs of your students.
The pendulum swings so often in education because some try to gain money or notoriety from a system and push ONLY that idea. Much of the blame can also be placed at the teacher’s and administrator’s feet as well! Those educators who think that a one size fits all approach to education will ever work will likely and unnecessarily frustrate themselves and their coworkers for years.
in the biggest picture, Education (capital E) is the fulfillment of the human condition. We are born both with a nature, but with the ability to guide our nature as well. In that struggle you will find all the glory and blame of what it means to be human.
Education is definitional to the identity of each of us as well as our entire race. It alone will finally determine whether we are simple animals or something more important.
Humanity is lived out one individual life at a time, not en masse. This individual expansion of the human whole is complex and resists models and summaries. Since we are preparing our kids to step into their future that appears foggy at the moment but becomes more tangible as each moment passes, we must resist the temptation to “pigeon-hole” ourselves, our classrooms and, by extension, our kids by permanently subsuming our native passion & creativity to any one particular model. Life is an art, not a science. And art is inspirational, but messy and ill defined. Models demote the art of living & educating, if the model replaces art.
Glad to see someone critically examine the fads of education research.
This is very well worded. I agree, education should be tailored to meet the needs of the specific class/student.