One Size Fits None

Lane Filler, reporter and board member of Newsday.com, wrote an opinion titled One-size fits all fits students poorly.

The piece cites a report from the Center for American Progress that large percentages of students say school work is too easy.

Filler’s point of view focuses on what’s not addressed by the survey: Are the students getting the correct amount of rigor for their abilities?

Conventional education follows an industrial factory model where a foreman (teacher) shovels out information in a classroom (assembly line) to the students (widgets) with no regard for their individual strengths and weaknesses. Basically, trying to pitch to the middle of the class so hopefully you hit the most students.

It’s Filler’s opinion that, the students in the survey who indicated their course work was sometimes too hard (around 50%) are in the correct difficulty level. Where students on the ends of the distribution curve who indicated that the work was way too hard or easy are in the wrong classes.

Filler has a good point and I am reminded of an example from my graduate school experience.

As part of my MBA, my cohort and I were assigned a statistics project. The assignment required 12 hours of video instruction for those of us who had never had any statistics experience. Once we actually got to the class where we worked on the project, the students who had a stats background flew through the work and had to sit quietly while the rest of us struggled through all the foreign concepts. On the distribution curve of my class there was no middle to pitch to.

The solution is to get more individual attention to students. Many schools and companies are trying different models. A promising method is the The School of One that Freakonomics Radio reported on in the story How Is a Bad Radio Station Like Our Public-School System? The system uses algorithms and human teachers to present information to a student based on their past performance with that learning method.

What are your thoughts?

Read the original Newsday story here.

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