Friday, September 18, 2009

Who is responsible for student learning?

A great comment from Peter Ingle on my previous post about becoming a worse teacher. He wrote:

Perhaps your response to your class today is actually the norm in high education. It might be that even well intentioned courses that are thoughtfully designed with specific learning objectives and a focus on student learning are, at times,just so-so for the faculty. Perhaps this is actually about what the student is doing and not about your passion or how practiced you are? Try not to focus on you and focus more on the students.

Peter is always thoughtful about this stuff, and his final point--to concentrate more on students than on any satisfaction the teacher gets is, of course, wise.

The same day I read Peter's comment, suggesting the importance of a shift of responsibility to students, I sat in the board meeting for City Academy, the charter high school where I serve. We got the good news that our school met AYP this year (as we have every year so far).

As you know, if a school doesn't meet AYP for several years running it faces sanctions, because under the philosophy of NCLB, teachers and schools are responsible for student learning.

So here is the question in all this. In higher ed we talk increasingly of students being responsible for their own learning. (What this belief suggests for the role of faculty is unclear as my previous post and Peter's comment make obvious.) In K-12, though, accountability for learning is clearly shifting towards the teacher and administration.

I'm intrigued. Why is HE going one direction--students responsible for their own learning--and K-12 another? Surely there isn't some magical thing that happens between 12th grade and 13th that shifts responsibility, is there?

Given the growing pressure on HE to be accountable for graduation rates, and to justify the huge costs of college, I expect that the trend will be towards greater responsibility placed on faculty for the learning of their students. So what will this mean for what a teacher does in the classroom?

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