Friday, October 3, 2008

Well...Is THIS Educational Malpractice?

In response to a comment posted by Dan Callahan on October 3, 2008 in response to my October 2, 2008 blog post, "Is This Educational Malpractice?"

Dan, I'm so glad you zoomed in on my mention of "standards of practice" in my October 2, 2008 blog post "Is This Educational Malpractice?" I anticipated that readers might question the "accepted standard" caveat articulated in the definition of malpractice offered on You didn't let me down and I appreciate that! Thank you for reading my blog and for encouraging me to explain my position.

I would argue that the "standards" for 21st century teaching and learning are widely published and accepted at this time. For example:

1.) The International Society for Technology in Education updated the 2000 NETS.T in January 2008. The 2008 National Educational Technology Standards for Teachers detail and profile the internationally accepted standards for 21st century teaching. ISTE describes these standards as "a framework for educators to use as they transition schools from Industrial Age to Digital Age places of learning."

2.) In 2007, the American Association of School Librarians released the AASL Standards for the 21st Century Learner. These standards detail the skills, resources and tools that are crucial for students who will live and work in this century. According to AASL, the standards provide "a guide and beckon... to serve as a tool for library media specialists to use to shape the learning of students in the school."

3.) In 2000, 2002, 2003 and 2007, the International Technology Education Association(ITEA) published the Standards for Technological Literacy. The intent of ITEA's standards is to help educators define and recognize quality technology instruction.

4.) The Partnership for 21st Century Skills, an advocacy group composed of education leaders (National Education Association and American Association of School Librarians), business leaders, community and government leaders published a powerful Framework for 21st Century Learning. To date, nine states have adopted the P21 Framework and are systematically working to infuse standards for 21st century teaching and learning in public schools.

5.) Every state in our nation has developed and implemented technology standards for students. In our nation, there is a statutory requirement that requires schools to ensure that students are technologically literate by the end of the 8th grade. The portion of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act known as 'Enhancing Education Through Technology Act of 2001' (E2T2) requires schools: To assist every student in crossing the digital divide by ensuring that every student is technologically literate by the time the student finishes the eighth grade, regardless of the student's race, ethnicity, gender, family income, geographic location, or disability.

I could go on and on with examples of “accepted standards” but I know you get the idea.

If you are arguing that the 21st century skills are not standard PRACTICE in U.S. public schools, I would wholeheartedly agree with you, and thank you for making my point. The "accepted standard" (and,I might add LAW, see #5 above) is not the accepted practice. Let me return to the medical malpractice definition and analogy. First, I admit, I’m no attorney, so I'm simplifying to make a point. If a physician notes a suspicious lesion and fails to evaluate the cause and follow an accepted standard in practice, the physician does harm to the patient. In a like manner, if an educator is aware of a pertinent educational need of students charged to their care - and fails to assess the need and implement an accepted "standard" of instructional practice, they do harm to the student. Let's look at it another way. What consequences might follow if an educator decided NOT to teach reading in his class? What if he ignored reading as an “accepted standard” of practice? I think we know the answer. The 21st Century skills are often compared to reading – as an essential life skill for students who will live and work in this century. How can educators NOT embrace the teaching of these skills with the same passion and vigor as they embrace the teaching of reading?

Let me make an important point that you bring to my attention. I am quick to praise our nation's educators who are doing an admirable job teaching many, many, many "standards." Our teachers are masters at TEACHING content. My October 2 post, however, is calling attention to a set of LEARNING skills and abilities that students will need for success in the 21st century. These skills include: constructing knowledge in modern contexts; practicing life skills through real-world problem-solving; experiencing creativity and testing innovation through relevant projects and activities; gathering, analyzing, creating and communicating information to audiences of peers throughout the world. The "accepted standards" for these skills, in IMHO, are not widely visible in contemporary classroom practice. My question remains, Dan. Is this educational malpractice?


    this comment got lost!

    let me try to summarize what I wrote...

    A) If there is malpractice we need to define who is mal-practicing. I see a lot of talk about how teachers are not doing their duties when it comes to teaching thinking skills. If there is malpractice it is systemic. The teachers are only one element of what happens in the classroom. Though the strongest, they are not usually consulted when it comes to what we should teach children. Teachers deal with day-to-day live classroom activities while administrators, school board personnel, commissioners, and government ministers debate what policies and expectations need to be addressed at the school and class level. If there is malpractice it is systemic.

    B) This is a values-charged arguement. In the 70s and still today, proponents of whole language learning beleived that students needed to 'discover' language in authentic language-based situations, eschewing the explicit instruction of how language works. Many, if not most, students need to learn these skills explicitly. Personally I think it is malpractice to assume otherwise, but that is my value judgment.

    C) Sophisticated thinking skills can be taught without the aid of computer technology. My most fruitful lesson so far this year has been sitting on the floor with groups of kids and construction paper creating mind maps of our learning system. Added bonus - construction paper doesn't lose connection to a server :)

    I'm now off to commit some malpractice in my classroom that has 1 working computer running a wondows 2000 OS and a display that makes us think we have double vision...

  2. I'm curious...
    I can see a lot of logic in the questions and responses (is it malpractice? what is malpractice? what is a standard?).

    But whether anyone agrees or disagrees, how does this move towards a positive change in all of our classrooms? I think it feels judgmental to people - assessing what they're doing and deeming it a failure.

    Useful as a beginning step to determine what the issue is, but it doesn't motivate most people to go out and change themselves and their teaching. I think it motivates many people to defend themselves...

    I tend towards other questions - like what stands in the way of DOING what so many already talk about and agree with? (re: changes that are needed)

    What is the reality of each classroom? As Tracy points out - how do you put your efforts into integrating technology if you don't have a reliable technology infrastructure at your disposal? One computer in a classroom doesn't warrant a whole lot of effort in changing teaching practices (after all - you can't implement any of your learning if you don't have computers!).

    I have a strong belief that if these are the things we want for our children, then we have to do them for our teachers as well. We talk about an iep for every student - what about an iep for every teacher? What does every teacher need as far as social and emotional support? What is each teacher's unique strengths and learning/teaching style? Why, as a system, are we failing so miserably in providing teachers with mentors and coaches who will help them through this change?

    I have a passion for how parents can help support teachers in these changes - again, by doing for teachers what we want for our children. And it has everything to do with the human aspects of support and change!

    I am so inspired by the passion of educators and this is another conversation that shows me how much you all care! Thank you!