Friday, November 23, 2012

Last mile problems

This was written by my good friend Kelly Aleman who is a middle school teacher an guidance councillor in Red Deer, Alberta. He blogs here and tweets here. This post was his first ever blog post and was originally posted here.

By Kelly Aleman

I was watching the Ted Talks series and was intrigued by a session led by Sendhil Mullainathan called "Solving social problems with a nudge". He refers to an issue he calls "last mile problems" where we seem to come up with a variety of innovations to improve life here on earth, yet we sometimes stop just short of solving problems for good. It seems that we often have difficulty going that last mile for a variety of reasons, but primarily we tend to use the same models for improvement because they are what we know.

The problem with more complex problems is that they are not always solved by traditional means. Here lies the issue in education. We seem to continually attempt to improve education using the same tired models such as using standardized tests as the sole means of measuring school improvement.

There have been many inspired ideas in education over my 20 years as a teacher. Cooperative learning, multiple intellegences, and differentiated instruction to name a few. These ideas were attempts to improve educational practice, and have succeeded to a large degree.

We have, however, hit the "last mile ". We continue to use standardized testing to measure their effectiveness when we should be looking at much more authentic examples of whether a child is learning. As teachers, I hope we have the courage to continue to have our voices heard in this arena. Our students deserve no less.

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