Run, don’t walk, over to Joanne Jacobs where the talented Diana Senechal is guest-blogging for Joanne between now and May 29. Diana, a teacher at a Core Knowledge school in NYC, has been a frequent contributor here on the Core Knowledge Blog and one of the more original and thoughtful classroom observers in the edusphere wherever her comments appear.
Check out her thoughts about why failure is important, and today’s post on goal-setting for students. Apparently, New York City schools now require every student to have explicit, written learning goals in every subject–and to show or recite them on demand.
The goal requirement blurs the line of responsibility. Who is responsible for the learning? If teachers must set goals for students, then students do not have to set goals for themselves. If the learning doesn’t happen, students can simply say that they never got their goals or never discussed them in conference. The focus is on documentation (what was sent out, discussed, and signed) rather than the subject matter and the learning of it.
“A goal can be vital or banal,” Diana concludes. “Mandating it (and setting the language for it) tips it in the direction of banality.”
This is a classic example of my First Law of Bad Education Practice, which holds there is not a single good idea in education that doesn’t become a bad idea the moment it hardens into orthodoxy. Diana nails the reason why this is ironclad law: once the focus is on documentation (Student goals? Check!) it’s all about the To Do list. The first, immediate casualty is whatever made the idea powerful in the first place.