Donald G. Perrin
Levels of quality vary between courses, instructors, and institutions. In days gone by, we compared our educational institutions with local schools and universities and we set up and adhered to state and national standards. As the world became smaller, new nations joined the global economy and both jobs and employees became more mobile. As a result, regional standards were replaced by global standards. Competition raised the benchmarks even higher. Today, job applicants face competition from around the world. How do we prepare learners for a competition where they face the best-of-the-best?
It has been said that students are rarely better than their teachers. This does not allow for entrepreneurs and geniuses. Under the old paradigm, the teacher exercised so much control that they inadvertently constrained the more able learners. This is where the new paradigm is different. Instruction materials replace teachers, are the primary delivery system. The teacher can diagnose and prescribe, counsel, guide, tutor, coach, or consult as a resource person. The student is in control and responsible for his or her own learning.
Materials can team produced and improved based on feedback. They can be used to motivate, pre-organize, and lead students step-by-step. They can be used with groups of any size or with individuals. They can be interactive and responsive to individual needs. They are transportable by electronic communications to be used at any time in any place. Potential number of users is very high, while replication and distribution cost is very low.
Television and the Internet share the best teachers and learning materials. Teaching is no longer a folk art that mimics the way we were taught. It is a science based on motivation and learning theory and successful “best practices.” It requires relevant goals and up-to-date subject matter supported by rigorous assessment, design, implementation and evaluation. Instructional design is more than design of instruction. It has its own architecture based on performance objectives, taxonomies, presentation methods, and evaluation. Add a learning management system and you have liberated both teacher and student to do what they do best.
The other major paradigm shift is mastery learning. A rubric tells you when the criterion is achieved. This replaces letter grades because everyone is supported to reach the standard or benchmark (time is a variable, learning is a constant). If you need a higher grade to distinguish top performers, consider adding “exceeds expectations” wherever it applies in the student’s portfolio.
|September 2008 Index|