Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Pearson's Renaissance (4): Marching Orders

This is the last in the series of wonk-heavy posts about Pearson's "Preparing for a Renaissance in Assessment." In previous posts we've looked at Pearson's versions of the upcoming revolution, the problems of assessment, and the future after the revolution occurs. Now we'll take a look at the final chapter-- what they want various leaders to do in order to bring the revolution about.

4. A Framework for Action

For ease of understanding, Pearson provides the marching orders for leaders in a nice, numbered list.

1. Think long-term

"The assessment renaissance, we firmly believe, is coming. But it is hard to predict when it will arrive." The technical problems of making all this work, and people are unaccountably more attached to the status quo than a hypothetical future version of education.

So we have to think long term. The arrival of the assessment renaissance, like the Second Coming of Christ, will appear on a day unlooked for. Everyone best be ready.

2. Build partnerships

Not only do teachers and government need to team up, but education corporations, tech corporations, venture capital corporations, and university researchers need to get their hands in the till. The writers suggest incentivizing cooperation to speed it up. They particularly like the example of a competition to propose solutions (competitions are great because you can get lots of people to work for you, but you only have to pay the winners).

3. Create the infrastructure

The current tech infrastructure sucks. If only you could get somebody like, say, the government to underwrite the infrastructure improvement so that the road to profit was open and clear.

4. Develop teacher capacity

Teachers' ability to shift with the new changes is slow for some reason. It's almost as if they've repeatedly been told "Do this great new thing" and then had the rug yanked out from under them, making them hesitant to jump on the newest bandwagon. The writers suggest something like a five-year plan  for developing teacher familiarity with technology and "sophisticated assessment."

5. Allow variation in implementation

No, don't get excited. They are "not recommending simply leaving te system, school or teacher alone and seeing what happens." Just as "personalizing" instruction really just means  differentiating the speed at which everyone does the same thing, so does "variation" here just mean that schools don't necessarily need to move in lock step. As they implement exactly the same system.

6. Adopt a delivery approach

You need to sell a shared vision, because this will take a while and politicians will come and go. If you let things become too politicized, it will mess implementation up. Or, in other words, if you allow people in positions of power who have not been assimilated, you'll run into trouble. Make sure that doesn't happen.

7. Communicate consistently

People keep getting the Wrong Idea about this stuff. Some people are confused and some people willfully mislead. Pearson does not allow for the category of people who understand perfectly and object vehemently. But their choice of "consistently" is telling. They don't recommend that their people be "transparent" or even "honest." Just consistent. Get your story straight, and stick to it.

8. Apply the change knowledge

Oh, a list within a list. Barber quotes himself again, this time to indicate what he believes is necessary to make this change happen successfully. Pay attention to this list, because it tells you just how serious he is about this stuff

-- Moral purpose
-- Positive experiences
-- Shared vision and ownership
-- Learning in context is key
-- Encourage and learn from pioneers
-- System support
-- Balance pressure and support
-- Leadership is the key to system transformation
-- Better value for money

Yes, moral purpose. If you've never read Barber before, know this-- he speaks repeatedly about changing the world's education system not as a business opportunity, but as a moral imperative. He is, in fact, carrying the white man's burden, fixing all the schools in the world because he Knows how they are supposed to work.

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