Archive for November, 2012

If/Then: On the Logic of Education

On the utility of if/then questioning strategies in the development of cognitive facility.

National and state standards are a known. They are fixed. They represent discrete bits of knowledge and/or skills that students should master in a given academic year as a way to provide a uniform education. The advantage to applying a uniform set of standards is that professionals see clearly what is expected and where children should be, developmentally, as they move through the system. The disadvantage to applying a uniform set of standards is that professionals are given their marching orders, as it were, as may see their job as one of ensuring children master conjugation or spelling, for example, without regard to how these skills apply to the why of education.

The why of education. Simon Sinek suggests that, far too often, we focus on the how or the what of the things we do in our jobs rather than beginning with the why. According to Sinek, by beginning with why we ensure that others will more easily see the bigger picture of “what we do” or “how we do what we do.” Essentially, when we begin with the why, others will quickly see the “method to our madness,” to paraphrase the Bard.

The “why of education” can be seen as a marriage of social, emotional, and cognitive growth so that at the end of high school a young person may enter the adult world of commerce or service as a productive citizen. And yet, though we may believe in this idea of social, emotional, and cognitive growth, the reality of our nation’s educational agenda is squarely aimed at children’s cognitive growth. Unfortunately, mastering standards (e.g., solving an algebra problem on a standardized examination) is not equivalent to approaching a real-world problem from an algebraic point of view. This algebraic point of view, this perspective, is not related to skills or algorithms that can be applied so much as it is related to looking at a problem logically. If problems are a problem to be solved, then a requisite cognitive ability is to play with the problem’s variables apart of resolving or solving the problem

Therefore, if the why of education” is our first and foremost concern for children, and developing their ability to approach problems or questions from different perspectives or different points of view, then all education, especially early childhood education, should present children opportunities to consider if/then questions. Unlike moving toward a known standard (e.g., fractions), approaching the concept of fractions through a series of if/then questions provides children opportunities to play with the idea rather than being bogged-down with definitions or symbols. If perspective-taking or altering a point of view is an important requisite of all education, it might be that we should focus our attention on simple conversations that employ if/then questions.

At TEDxSFA we’re intrigued by innovative and creative minds that approach ideas from different perspectives.

Keep moving forward (wd).


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