Day 62 – Pro D Pasi Sahlberg

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Pro D – Today we had a professional development day, and a lot of snow! I grew up in the interior of BC, sliding around on snow and ice and frozen lakes. My drive to work in the morning was a bit crazy though. Twice while going up a hill my car lost traction, sliding sideways and backwards. I used all of my ninja-things-you-should-do to keep the car moving forward but lost out. In the end the solution was to gun it. Pedal to the metal. I parked at the bottom of Dunbar at Broadway and enjoyed a nice walk up to Lord Byng on 16th Avenue in the snow.

The morning was spent attended a talk by Pasi Sahlberg. His talks are probably often geared towards American audiences, because as he clearly laid out, other countries should be more like Canada when it comes to education.

Here is a mind dump of what I took away from the talk and other thoughts of mine recently.

  1. I’ve always hypothesized that BC’s success in education is due to great autonomy in teaching, and Pasi also believe this to be a factor
  2. PISA scores give us some information which can be useful but shouldn’t necessarily be a driving force. Pasi says PISA is now succumbing to the equivalent of doping in sports.
  3. Canada’s PISA score is increased because of our immigration policies.
  4. The highest PISA scores are likely greatly a result of authoritarian values, both in education and family life. I don’t understand why this isn’t talked about more. Is it direct instruction vs inquiry, or authoritarian vs self-deterministic?
  5. I shake my head at the hand-wringing of the WISE folk and their BC followers. I truly believe that they are mostly wrong in their analysis of math education in BC. We’re going to the toilet, they said. We’re about to see the results of 10 years of bad pedagogy, they said. It hasn’t appeared though. Well, some of their arguments are still valid and PISA is not the final chapter of math ed analysis.
  6. Bloggers like Greg Ashman analyze education policies based on research results, which I certainly appreciate and agree with. This was one of the biggest eyebrow raising things for me when I entered education from my engineering career. I would read or hear about something and ask, “how do you know that though?” In some ways I’ve changed some of my attitude after working with kids.  There is a lot of evidence that shows that inquiry doesn’t lead to better learning. I get it. However, it’s my philosophy of education that changes how I look at this. What I noticed when talking to kids is that they have had their curiosity beaten the hell out of them. Many kids are so unused to asking a question, wondering, and generally not curious about things around them. Students of mine, especially older students in physics, that are used to a lot of teacher centered direct instruction are seemingly incapable of expressing a thought without first being told what that thought should be.  I spent considerable time with my science 8 class last year having them develop questions, discuss questions, develop opinions and develop scientific experiments (ie inquiry). I saw amazing growth in these kids as people, citizens, and students, even if they may not have learned as much “content,” (and I don’t think they did learn less content).   Worked examples be damned, my students stopped saying “I don’t know” when asked “what do you think?”   That is worth more than a test will ever measure, imo.
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