Friday, April 24, 2009

When's a credit not a credit?

This one keeps bubbling up to the surface on an almost annual basis. If memory serves, it was the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation Forum members' magazine that first caused some kerfuffle when one of its issues' lead article was on credit integrity. It pops up every now and again (for example, one of the issues supposedly in the BDSB, see early March posts) and this roundtable writeup crossed the desk today and generated some interest.
This one's a toughie since there's a lot of grey in between the black and white involved here if you're willing to spend some time considering it. It also has a chicken/egg or tail-wag-dog paradox embedded in the question of whether the Ontario Ministry of Education is lowering 'standards' so more students are 'successful.' Or does an increase in the number of 'successful' students simply give the impression that 'standards' are lower?
Admittedly, this reporter is not that old. Old enough to be from a time when some of his peers were held back a grade and when missing a deadline some times meant a failing grade. But young enough to be from a time where classrooms were inclusive, teachers differentiated instruction (although they didn't consciously call it that at the time) and when a missed deadline some times meant a 10 per cent reduction per day late.
However, this reporter was also in an academic stream-- with its frustrations and tribulations, but one well-suited to his learning style and needs. He was never destined to go into the workforce straight after high school. As a result, I can't speak intelligently on the experience of some of my peers whose destinations weren't the same as my own.
I do know many who have come through high school after me were not and are not being raised as resilient children. They are not being given the tools they need to understand the difference between success and failure and either's effect on motivation and perseverance. In the fear of crushing their nascent self-esteem and self-worth, others -- led by their parents -- don't let them fail, ever.
All that being said, this reporter still has confidence in the value of an Ontario Secondary School Diploma.


Ronn Kistler said...

You raise a great question, and one whose core I think you finally reach in the second-to-last sentence: how do we deal with “failure?” Do we allow children to fail in a safe atmosphere and learn coping mechanisms thereby? Do we teach them that there is no true failure except in giving up? Do we help them to understand the difference between failing to accomplish a goal, and BEING a failure? (And I think that so often we don’t differentiate between the person and the act.)
This is why I love the Arts in education. In the arts, we have no "right" and "wrong." There is no universal "good" or "bad" in the arts, because these are a matter of personal opinion and preference. In more than 35 years of teaching students of every age, (and in the new book I just co-authored entitled "Teaching Curriculum Through the Arts") I have been suggesting to students (and to teachers whom I am training to infuse the arts into all aspects of their academic curriculum because of how powerful they are as teaching strategies) that their standard for judgment must be simply the accomplishment of the goal. Either it communicates to the audience or it doesn’t. Either the audience is inspired or it isn’t. Either the work of art reveals its creator's intent, or not. Students love to be involved and the arts involve them, motivate them. And in teaching them in this powerful way, we help them to understand that the quality of their success is not based solely on whether or not they have reached their goal, but also on the lessons learned and applied along the way.

Ronn Kistler, Arts in Education consultant, CES