Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Helpful jargon

England is abuzz with something called "personalised education" as shown in this BBC account. It looks similar to what's known here as differentiated instruction. As is usually the case in edland, these innovations are couched in inpenetrable jargon. One can never be sure of what one is dealing with:

There is a very tricky question which is bothering many people involved in schools today, namely: "What is personalised education?"

The question is important because "personalisation" is the current buzzword in the Department for Education and in schools.

Last October, the Prime Minister said the government's school reforms would lead to "personalised lessons" for pupils. The then Education Secretary, Ruth Kelly (my, how fast they change!) characterised the reforms as being about "personalisation and choice".

So, everyone is talking about it. It will eventually affect every child in a school. All teachers will have to learn how to teach it. But what does it mean?

Ask professional educators and you might get an answer like this: "Personalised learning is about learner-managed and co-constructed learning -- the shift from dependency to independence and interdependency -- and invitational learning and assessment."

I took this from a website dedicated to personalised education. If you can make sense of it, you are a much better person than me.

It also talked about the "re-integration of learning, life and community", making use of "catalogue and natural versions of curriculum and assessment" and "de-coupling of age-stage progressions".

That clears it up.


NYC Educator said...

Ask professional educators and you're hardly likely to get that sort of talk.

You're more likely get comments about the dubious rewards of having to write 34 lesson plans for each class.

Instructivist said...

"Ask professional educators and you're hardly likely to get that sort of talk."

"Professional educators" is a catchall phrase. It could encompass gurus, ed school profs, administrators and even teachers. Nebulous jargon is commonplace in edland.

NYC Educator said...

To me, it signifies people who actually teach.

I have another word for the people you describe, but I'll withhold it out of respect for your readers.

Charles Nelson said...

Yes, there's too much jargon. Still, if we stop for a second and think about what's being said, there is some value here.

"the shift from dependency to independence and interdependency": Eventually, students will be have a job, and they will need to be able think for themselves and will also have to be able to work with others. Sitting in a seat, listening to someone lecture, and then regurgitating on a test will not help students be successful at work. Just read all the complaints in the media that businesses have about new employees. That phrase is an attempt to move from the "sitting and listening" style of education to a "doing and thinking" style.

On the "re-integration of learning, life and community", again, if students do not apply what they learn in school to real-life contexts, that "learning" will be forgotten quickly. Although there is a need for "facts", and lots of them, there is also a need to use those facts. Would anyone really want to go to doctors who had straight A's in all of their course work, but had never had a residency in which they practiced using their course knowledge?

We could look at the other buzz jargon in a more positive light, too. It's easy to poke fun at jargon (I like to do it myself), but it's more productive to see if it contains something of value.