Saturday, December 31, 2011

"Mindless Progressivism"

While I was thinking about how I want to digest the 36 principles listed below, I came upon this comment on James Paul Gee's site:

"It surprises me how often educators who know better lapse back into “mindless progressivism”, a theory that children learn best by participation and immersion in interest-driven activities.  People can participate in an interest-driven group and still gain few of the higher-value skills that participation in the group leads others to attain.  That is why an emphasis on production is important.  Learning to produce the knowledge or outcomes an interest-driven group is devoted to leads to higher-order and meta-level thinking skills.  If only a few are producers and most are consumers, then a group is divided into a small number of “priests” (insiders with “special” knowledge and skills) and the “laity” (followers who use language, knowledge, and tools they do not understand deeply and cannot transform for specific contexts of use)."

To re-state (if necessary): putting kids into groups based on interest doesn't guarantee learning, or at least not the higher-level stuff that teachers really want.  Teachers need to emphasize the creation of some kind of appropriate product (the students need to make something).  If only a few students move into this way of thinking, instead of all, then the group can be divided and less effective overall.  

I take this as a caution.  I'm on the cusp of pushing students into groups, hopefully with an appropriate emphasis on a product.  But that doesn't guarantee learning all by itself.  

Thanks, Jim.    
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