Beyond Learning Styles with Tamra Excell
April 14, 2017
Johnny has fifty-four apples and six friends. What would each friend get if he divided the apples evenly among them? Nine apples, you say? Interesting theory. The answer is actually a stomach ache. (Sorry, had to!) But that’s not the point of this exercise. The point is to ask you this: when you read the question, what was your process? Did you find you had to picture the apples? Did you wish you had fifty-four apples to physically sort? Did you repeat the question aloud? Your answer may reveal your learning style. Or, as Tamra Excell, co-founder of Christa McAuliffe School of Arts and Sciences would say, your learning needs and preferences.
Excell speaks on the importance of learning styles on her website, www.TamraExcell.com, including why she prefers to call them a learning need and/or preference instead of a “style.”
In her latest article entitled “Beyond Learning Styles: Preferences and Needs”, Excell explains,“Communication is important for learning, and word choice is important for communication. The phrase “learning styles” has been defined and applied in a variety of ways, making communication and research about learning styles problematic at best.”
This, Excell says, is why “Learning needs and preferences is better terminology than learning styles. Most can agree that a student who is blind is not likely to learn from visual means, and that a person who is Deaf will not likely learn through auditory means. They have learning needs that seem obvious, wouldn’t you agree? Where do we draw the line though? How about a student with a processing disorder confirmed with fMRI scans; would this be accepted evidence of a learning need? At what point do we draw the line between a need and what we would instead define as a preference? Or should we?
What Standardized Tests Don't Measure
April 13, 2017
Nikki Adeli stands before a packed audience in Philadelphia. She’s junior in high school, and yet, she’s been given a national stage to propose a call to action for herself and students like her. Her message is very similar to Seth Godin’s, for us to contemplate: what is school for? And more specifically, are the standardized tests we use as a nation to delineate success and intelligence really the best indicator of potential?
Adeli says it’s not. Studies have shown that an alarming number of 44% of middle to high school students don’t feel a sense of self-worth at school. The tests designed to measure their worth as a citizen and future member of the workforce only cater to those built to operate a certain way: good test takers. Good memorizers. And yet, history has shown us that many of the most innovative minds of our time did not do well in school. Einstein. Darwin. Edison.
Adeli’s argument is that Scantrons don’t measure higher-order thinking. They don’t measure creativity or innovation. This, according to Adeli, is not congruent with what she believes school is for. “The value and the purpose of schools is to grow a citizen. And this citizen is to be a multitude of personalities; it’s someone who’s open-minded, knowledgeable, someone who in the long-run can give back to their community… However, if we are as diverse as Philadelphia is, as diverse as a country we ARE, why are we putting kids into standards to reach, for them to then fulfill any sort of potential they might have?”
So what can we do? Adeli’s solution is simple: give tomorrow’s future a voice today.
What is School For?
April 12, 2017
What is school for?
This is the question innovative author and entrepreneur Seth Godin asks an auditorium full of students at the TEDx-Youth conference in his talk: “Stop Stealing Dreams.”
What is school for?
It’s a pertinent question, one whose answer goes far beyond “to get a job” and “to make me smart.” It’s pertinent, because traditional schools as we know them were designed to serve an entirely different populus, during an entirely different era.
Sir Ken Robinson tells us, “The current system of education was designed and conceived and structured for a different age. It was conceived in the intellectual culture of The Enlightenment, and in the economic circumstances of the Industrial Revolution.”
Schools were originally designed to teach students to fit in, to comply, to learn obedience and to have the “right” answer. During his talk, Godin points out, “We sit you in straight rows just like they organize things in the factory. We built a system all about interchangeable people, because factories are based on interchangeable parts.”
But as the song goes, times, they are a-changing, and many students are breaking free from the industrial model and searching outward for new avenues of education. Homeschooling, Online schooling, private schooling; there is now a myriad of options that extend far beyond the local school house.