It might be aimless to talk pedagogy in the next few years without first naming the precipitating development that will have the most impact on it. Unless you haven’t read or listened to any media in the last few months, most people know about the new Common Core Standards, rolled out as of 2014. It’s a set of standards for each subject, across all grades K through 12, nationwide. In the media, many parents, particularly, are grousing with full-fueled disdain, finding it too needlessly cumbersome and complicated for their children. While many teachers, though in accord about the complexity and their own steep learning curve, have praised it. That’s because the pedagogy aims at developing critical thinking.
Indeed, it is the first time in U.S. history such a system has been implemented on a national level, and the behemoth nature intrinsic in such a large undertaking is going to create blow back. Historically, at least, it always has. Firsts of any kind, challenge us. But the numbers are revealing. Though there are pockets, as in Chicago, where much of the board has shown opposition to the new standards, places like Kentucky, where statewide an overwhelming 90% of teachers are in support of the new system, mirror many districts nationally. Why the disparity between educators and parents?
Teaching Should Reveal, Not Obscure
Parents argue that the new standards are too dense. They say that the simplicity of counting on, for example, should be unpacked in a way that’s just as simple. Educators agree, wondering why so many steps must be used. Still others worry that the standards thwart the creativity that talented teachers use to help students understand a tricky concept or a challenging math problem. Even more are angered that certain curriculum will be replaced, with so much to cover in the new Core Curriculum. There’s concern that because of the standards, curriculum will naturally be affected.
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Where Pedagogy Comes into Play
The new standards are based on expert and educator research based on the most successful countries internationally. Pedagogy will be based on the way the standards show how to teach a lesson or a concept.
And in these first few years, it will be awkward. Teachers are struggling with their administration about how much clearance they have in using the steps as a reference, not an absolute. Administrators have these questions as well. Parents, as noted, have their concerns. Even worse, ‘teaching to the test’ has become more pronounced in the beginning of this process as states and Washington need these numbers to assess the success of the new system. But this won’t and shouldn’t be part of the process forever.
Pedagogy these first few years will center on navigating how to teach students about subject matter, while folding in test taking strategies toward that end. In other words, a planned lesson on the history of California Missions and the impact on indigenous people, which is a current fourth grade standard in California, can be taught with a mock section of the state exam, as a way for teachers to check for understanding and students to gain experience with the test structure.
Pedagogy in Three to Five Years
As more educators and administrators gain competence in this new style of teaching, the pressure of assessment and overall skepticism could wear off. The pedagogy behind these new standards, while at first ostensibly needless, is actually the most well-aligned choice for national success. The pedagogy is based on developing critical thinking skills that transfer across all subject areas.
To the untrained eye, this process looks careless and silly. But these steps gain our learners traction away from hand-fed multiple choice questions that don’t challenge their best critical thinking. They empower them with the strategies to develop their best thinking, and this is a skill that is dire for those entering the work force in the next decade. A workforce with strikingly declining manufacturing and union positions, and increased emphasis on STEM positions.
In the next three to five years, what feels clunky now should look like a more layered, smooth approach to developing better and sophisticated thinking.
It may not go that way, parental support and poor results in these first few years of testing could dismantle this new system sooner than later. But one thing is certain, our pedagogy should be responding to the natural need for robust critical thinking in order to ensure the most success for this next generation.