(subjective) thoughts and ponderings on my research journey thus far
This post is a smattering of ideas and thoughts collected over the past three months during my SET Lab Research and data collection. I’ve been keeping a document where I can easily dump thoughts and ideas as they come and make sense of them later. In cases where I wrote the original content on a previous date, that date is noted. In no case will the entries here seem very ‘research-y,’ and they aren’t intended to.
Some of these posts are quite personal and related to my own family’s experience seen through the lens of my topic. I understand that these thoughts are highly subjective, biased data (again, not ‘research-y’), but I’m including them here anyway, as I believe that sharing our individual stories and what drives us to question certain aspects of education is critical to an open, transparent process.
‘We must consider students holistically during the adolescent phase because so many aspects are under construction.’ -author unknown
Regarding the Game of School
I’m feeling deeply affected by the national stories like Landry School in LA (NY Times) and the hyper-local stories of my own students and friends when it comes to ‘achievement,’ ‘success,’ and ‘winning at school.’ ‘Changing the Game’ has been one of my core focuses and desires since I dove into the startup space 6 years ago, which just happened to coincide with me traversing through my 30’s, rearview-mirroring my own educational journey. Why are we all trying to just ‘play the game’ as well as the tiny fraction of wealthy elite, who conceived the game, the rules and the available roles to suit themselves? Being wealthy or elite isn’t inherently bad or wrong, but we must be more honest with ourselves about the systems we have created (consciously, subconsciously and unconsciously) and encourage iteration on all fronts, keeping what works and dismantling what doesn’t. I know — super easier said than done.
Ask the right question. Change the game.
On taking the road less traveled: vulnerability, credibility & objectivity
For the first time in 7 years in our community at HPMS and even in our larger community of Hoboken/JC, I’m feeling a bit on the outside. I’m feeling that I’m less like my tribe than I once was. Nearly every day someone asks about Ellis (my 7th grade son) and what our plans are for high school, and I’m still experimenting with different answers, none of which yet feels as honest and open as I want it to. We want something completely non-traditional. We might homeschool/worldschool/unschool. He’ll likely be racing karts & cars. We won’t be joining the rat race of NYC/NJ private school applications because we don’t believe what’s out there is pushing the boundaries of reimagined education. We feel that the ‘best schools’ in our area are still all functioning on a fairly traditional, standard model of education, and support a track toward the ‘right path’ and an expensive one at that. We also can’t afford a $40k/year tuition at some of the places where educational boundaries ARE being reinvented. Now that I’m a teacher, I’m also aware of risking my credibility on a professional level because my personal beliefs regarding what’s best for our family might be interpreted as crackpot by a number of parents, and said parents may make the (unfair) judgement that I’m able to remain objective and impartial to what’s best for their student.
Am I working on my SET Lab project to try and make the best of a system that is failing students, or to change the system? Do I have to identify that goal? Clearly it’s not failing everyone, right? How do I remain objective for the sake of my study while internalizing much of the process and results for the context of my own family’s experience? Am I looking to ‘wake people up’ about the ‘game’ and lead some kind of exodus from the traditional path because I believe it’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing or am I just looking to put a nutritional label on the box so it’s your choice to use the data as you wish?
On getting to the heart of the matter
I see now that this particular set of notes is truly where my focus and intent for this project synthesized.
What you measure is a reflection of what you VALUE, so there is no right answer. If anything, it supports and engenders school cultures on a hyperlocal level. It is the mirror. What is measured and how says as much about the measurement itself and the school culture it’s intended to reflect.
- Can it or should it (this Holistic Report Card) be scalable?
- Where is the fine line where the effectiveness of data (by way of technology) in assessment/reporting meets optimization/quantization of humans? How do we use data mindfully? Where is the point of diminishing returns?
- Micro assessments for evolving student data over time. How do you show growth over time in competencies, and use data points to identify dips, spikes, outliers in student competency areas?
- How do you use family input to complete the prism of student growth? What insight and observations do families have that can amend & improve the picture of the whole child?
**this is really a study on how to involve families and students, engaging them in the process as active rather than passive. Giving students agency through self awareness and actualization.
In the Field vs. the Lab
I want to make sure that I’m studying something that matters, something that’s real and useful. Not that it has to be all utility and no aspiration, but I want my SET Lab research to lead to empowering change in student, family and school communities. I was watching the news this morning, and they were reporting on a study that had been done on sleep. Sounds worthwhile, right? Well, in some university somewhere, for some length of time, researchers, scientists and willing participants spent time, money, energy and intellectual bandwidth to discover that ‘losing two hours of sleep or more in a night can make you grouchy.’ Seriously?!? There are hungry people in the world, people with no basic utilities, access to running water or education, but we need a study to tell us that not getting enough sleep makes us cranky?? Now I’m not taking a crack at academic research here, but as much as I love school, I’ve always erred on the ‘School of Life’ side of things. That being, living, and participating in the real world, experiencing real life problems have more benefit for learning opportunities than being stuffed up in a lab somewhere. And while I understand the need for isolating variables and controlling environments, the answer is usually that ‘real life is messy/more complex/more variable than scientific study allows for.’ So I want to feel as though my ‘work in the field’ on students reports is meaningful and worthwhile — not only to the fellow academics who will read up on what I’m doing, but to the students, teachers and families who need and want to create better experiences for their students. This leads to some certain doubts — why am I even doing this? Does it even matter? Do we even need report cards except to satisfy high school and college transcript requirements? Isn’t it impossible to remove bias from teacher assessment and grading? Does that matter?
I find myself constantly going back to the very beginning, revisiting why this matters to me. Who are student reports for? Why do they matter? If a teacher, an administrator, a parent and a student all envisioned their dream student report, what would it be like and why?
And I’m consistently left feeling like student reports are the result that serve a system rather than a cause that creates choice for a student.
List of current biases (known):
1st world problems… the fact that we can even debate this stuff means our kids have access to education that is serving them in the world
small class size… how on earth can this work for a single teacher in a class of 30+ kids, and across class subjects that have no integration with one another? HPMS is so unique in that way
Administration & Bureaucracy… we have an admin that allows us to explore, grow, change and create.
Voluntary participation… my bias is that parents can and are willing to participate in their child’s education in this way, and that they want students to be measured in holistic ways