By Dr. Harry Tennant


by Harry Tennant
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Friday, August 5, 2011

First, apply what we know

We put a lot of faith in education, but it doesn't always "take". Just because we take a course in something does not mean that we actually apply what we learned in our daily lives. I believe this is true in all walks of life, but let's just consider the field of education itself.

Edclick built our Discipline Manager product first for use at Delay Middle School in Lewisville, Texas. That school was 80% low SES, had gangs, and only avoided being ranked Unacceptable by a last minute appeal. A new policy of discipline was instituted, kids and teachers were taught behavior expectations, discipline was consistent with diligent follow-through. Students quickly learned that misbehavior resulted in consequences and they wouldn't be able to get around the system. Discipline improved, students spent more time in class, not crowding the office after discipline referrals. Out-of-class consequences went down. Time-on-task in the classrooms improved due to a more orderly environment. Kids felt safer in school; many stayed around the school after hours because it was a safer environment than their neighborhoods. Delay went from Unacceptable to an Intel School of Distinction in three years.

What made such a big difference at Delay? We like to think our software helped, but mainly, it was applying the principles of classroom and school management that teachers and administrators are routinely exposed to in their training. I say "exposed to" rather than "learn" because the predecessors apparently didn't learn these lessons or they would have applied them.

Another example of not learning what one's exposed to is in choosing learning activities in the classroom. Lecturing is one of the least effective methods of teaching, yet is one of the most commonly used, especially in high school and college. Why? Teachers are exposed to better teaching methods in their training, but for some reason, the lessons often don't seem to "take".

So, what can be done?

  • I argue for making continuous improvement as high priority as teaching itself. If educators are constantly looking for ways to improve, there's a better chance that they'll review what they've heard before.
  • Reuse, prompting and reminders might help some by making it easier to do the right thing. That's why we designed these features into Lesson Plan Manager.
  • Requiring such things as detailed lesson plans can help but this is clearly an external motivation strategy.
  • I like the idea of advertising for positive habits which seems to have helped change habits for smoking, safe sex, seat belts and drunk driving, but not obesity
  • Charting personal progress is a good kind of "ad".
  • Improved leadership can be very effective, but that just kicks the problem up one level. If leadership is poor, what inspires the principal to become a better leader?
  • Since changing habits is dependent on persistence and consistency, it seems like computers should be helpful. That's where folks like those of us at Edclick can contribute.

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Keywords: continuous improvement

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