So right Adam. This is going to be one of the great challenges, I think, in making meaningful change to educational systems. There is a residual bias that early demonstrated mastery should be graded at a premium over students who figure things out later on. This bias has been institutionalized in our assessment by assigning individual tasks a portion of the overall mark. Students who work at a different pace are essentially systemically prevented from ever achieving at the level of peers who have a more consistent learning curve.
If you extend this over a school year — it begs the question — what about the student who needs 14 months to achieve the skills we traditionally teach over the course of 10? I would expand your argument and say that establishing cohorts of students by, as Ken Robinson calls “date of manufacture” is a model that disproportionately harms many students. Groups of learners in a community with several lead learners responsible for progression and accountability — this makes more sense developmentally and pedagogically. That idea gives many, many people heart palpitations!
I have heard many reasons why we can’t do this — who is accountable, no space, no time, no resources — the list goes on. However, I think we need to start with the idea that if it is good for kids, we will figure it out. Like some of the conversations we have been having on TG2 — why couldn’t teachers from different departments work together on cross-curricular opportunities with kids at the secondary level? Why couldn’t the applied English lead learners have students flow where they need to/want to be in the pursuit of the skills and knowledge they are after?
Some of this reluctance, I do understand, is based on system accountability and administrative demands. But, I don’t think we are talking about rolling something out to a whole system here. We are talking about teachers figuring things out in their context, building understanding and capacity, learning alongside each other. Principals need to get on board with this — I would — and support teachers on this journey (or whatever other journey they are on). We know what we will get if we continue on this path, the question is — do we have the courage to take a risk to do better for kids? Uh, the kids are watching by the way — and all the time they are thinking about how many times we have told them to take risks in our classrooms!
Thanks for sharing.