Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Normal curve of distribution.

There was a really interesting article in yesterday's Times, and in the light of what Rachel and I had to say about education and how there is now such a shortage of skilled tradesmen, it was so pertinent.   Sadly I forgot to keep it (the Times makes good fire lighters).

It was written by an ex-headmaster and he was talking about how the emphasis had changed in examinations.

When I did my training - early in the 1960s - great emphasis was placed on the normal curve of distribution in marking techniques.
The chap in yesterday's article argued that this was no longer the case, that teachers on the whole had stopped teaching the wideness of a subject and were concentrating on teaching answer techniques to questions which might come up on the exam paper.   This was often making the curve skewed.

It is sad that this has happened.   It reminded me of Gradgrind in the Dicken's novel.   Facts, facts, facts - what has happened to the discussion, the experimenting, the creative learning techniques?
I don't think it is just at  Secondary level necessarily.   I have a friend who used to be a Primary Headteacher and she talks of wonderful projects children used to do.   The one which made an impression on me was a project they did on the Vikings.   I wonder how much time Primary school children have to spend on such things these days.   Schools used to be able to incorporate maths, english, arts and crafts - the lot all in one project.   Is there still time for this in Primary schools or have Ofsted visits overtaken this in importance?   Is there a mum or a teacher out there who can answer this question for us?

19 comments:

Terry and Linda said...

Teaching to the test...is what my educators children call it----and they hate it!

Well said, Pat!

Linda

Frances said...

Dear Weaver, I am late in telling you how much I enjoyed that previous post describing a day's beginning. I wish to someday see rooks in early morning.

With those rooks as a future wish, I'll now look back over my shoulder and be very glad that when I was at school, we did not have to be taught for testing. I wonder if any of today's young students will have fond memories of their school days when they reach my age?

xo

JoAnn ( Scene Through My Eyes) said...

I have to say - the schools our grandsons attend here in the US really focus on projects - incorporating the basic subjects into the project. For example - last year our 4th grade grandson's class did a project in which they formed groups of people - of their own choosing - who would trek across the United States in its early stages - heading from the east coast to California or Oregon. They made maps, chose careers (our grandson was a trader - traded horses, food, supplies in general, with whomever was available to help his traveling companions as they trekked across the country), made up timelines and wrote reports as they progressed. They had to choose who they would be in the group by figuring out what talentws were needed to get them successfully on their way. This year one of their projects concerns people who made great contributions to science. Our 7th grade grandson is working on a project of building a 3-D printer and demonstrating it to his classmates. Kids are so smart these days. One of the grading points on their report card is critical thinking - which is a great idea.

angryparsnip said...

My children graduated school just when the school district started teaching to the test.
Teachers who were creative had to embrace what was sent down from the California Board of Education. Awful.
I think You, me and my children went to school when it was interesting. We had music, art, shop classes, home economics, music, gym class. What a shame.

cheers, parsnip

Cro Magnon said...

When I was at school, and when teaching, the maxim was 'Education should not provide answers, but provoke questions'.

John "By Stargoose And Hanglands" said...

Just one of the reasons that I decided that teaching was not for me. Apart from being of no real educational worth it's also just so plain boring.

Derek Faulkner said...

I know little about modern day education but I certainly agree with Cro's maxim, it says it all.
Not quite the same subject but the question I always ask these days is, why do children have to begin some type of schooling when they're two years old. Clearly things have changed since I was a child and we never went to school until five years of age but starting schooling/nursery at such a young age seems ludicrous to me. I can only assume it's to do with parents needing to go off to work.

Hard up Hester said...

Two of my grandchildren still do projects at primary level, I think one is doing The Romans, and this topic incorporates all subjects.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Cro's maxim says it all, as Derek agrees. The project JoAnn describes sounds absolutely wonderful. I bet those children remember that all their lives. I remember at school - I would be about eight - our teacher asking us to bring in the wrappers from tins (this would be during the war, when tins were not all that plentiful). She had a large map of the world on the wall and we looked to see where each food came from and stuck a pin and a label there on the map. I tend to still look on lsbels today and often look up the source in the atlas - wish I could tell her so.

Minigranny said...

I remember that at my small Primary School, in a Yorkshire village, we seemed to spend a lot of time on projects which often entailed being outside. We went into local woods for Nature Study where we found owl pellets and wonderful fungi and learned the names of trees and plants. We also traced the passage of our beck to the sea by firstly following, on foot, to where it joined a bigger stream (remember that well as it was on a very hot Summers day) and then on various trips until, at the end, we want to Hull. Whilst in Hull we also learned about William Wilberforce. The school was very small though and it is probably harder to do this sort of thing with the large numbers in classes nowadays.

Derek Faulkner said...

Education, like most things in those far off days, was simple - simple but effective and you can bet your bottom dollar that you didn't have children leaving school to go out and work, not knowing where milk comes from.

Elizabeth said...

Such a complex question.
Yes,much too much 'teaching to the test' - but so much children have to learn to get on in this technological world.
I think we lived/taught/ grew up in a golden age of widespread education fairly kindly administered-
and lots and lots of "nature study' and music.
I would hate to teach now - I taught creative writing and had so much fun.
I now give talks to tired teachers (who have up to 150 students a day!) - and try to cheer them up and tell them to bring joy back into the writing process....hmmm!

the veg artist said...

My favourite 'project' in primary school was following the progress of the Gypsy Moth as Sir Francis Chichester circumnavigated the world. I regard myself as very fortunate in my teacher, Mr Thomas. He was born to the job!

Derek Faulkner said...

Elizabeth's comment ends by touching on Rachel's rant about teachers recently. "Tired teachers" - these are people that get almost three months of the year off on holiday to recover!I bet Junior Doctors and nurses who are equally as tired and stressed, would love to have as much time off.

Heather said...

I have never been a teacher and my children and their children are all past school age so I am not really qualified to pass a comment on this issue.

Gwil W said...

In the good old days I was often caned or given lines for challenging teachers. Why? How? were questions they didn't want to hear. This was because I spent my free time in the towns library educating myself on various subjects that seemed to me to be more important and relevant to my world. I was therefore seen as something of a class rebel and was punished without mercy. Lucky, or unlucky (don't know which) not to be expelled. On the day left I set fire to my school cap in the center of the sports field where I had represented the school for 5 years. I encourage a dozen boys to join me in this symbolic gesture. I think, hope, pray , that much has improved since my schooldays.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Your symbolic gesture on the day you left Gwil, reminded me of the tradition of throwing our hats into the River Witham on the day we left school. Vegartist - you had a good teacher who encouraged you to think for yourself I would guess. Derek - also I think we all knew our times tables (even if we were not sure what the whole process meant). Minigranny - sounds a lovely school you went to. Thank you everyone for your contribution.

Rachel said...

Friday, and I have just read this, and the article in the Times which I had in the house. We have degraded education in the hunt for A stars is the heading to the article. It finishes with "We have also forgotten what the very word education means". The CBI is asking schools to focus more on developing creative, entrepreneurial and problem solving skills. The article was very relevant to what I was saying and later shared with Weaver. Thank you Weave for writing about it and acknowledging my contribution.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Good to get your response Rachel. Thanks. Interesting article wasn't it?