A Top 10 Question: Are the Educational Paradigms Over?
The term “personalized learning” (PLI) is not really unique. Many successful teachers and educational advocates have embraced the concept as an essential part of the modern classroom. But PLI has undergone a resurgence this year as an acronym for “Qualified Subject Expert,” “Quota-assisted teacher,” and “Pre-training certified teacher.”
You are probably wondering how the school administration got confused about PLI, how the two subsets of PLI (qualified subject expert and pre-training certified teacher) are distinct and how each subcategory has a different field of knowledge. Here is an example of how a conversation back in high school dissolved into arguments.
“Bruce, when we were in math, the practical part was applied math – like terminal velocity. That had to be learned in a different way than painting something with a felt tip pen. How do we teach someone to apply terminal velocity?”
“What can I say, Bruce?”
“Well, I am an applied mathematics student myself. You know you can’t teach terminal velocity. You just tell them to visualize it in a different way.”
“Okay, that’s not what I meant.”
“You need to ask yourself if you want to teach terminal velocity – or whether you are just looking for a new subject!”
“Yes, I have always loved applying math concepts. I would even say I am not a math teacher because I teach math concepts, but I am a PHD in applied mathematics. I understand terminal velocity and would love to teach it. Why doesn’t my teacher understand terminal velocity?”
“Because you don’t know terminal velocity!”
“Why do I not know terminal velocity? It’s because I never heard of it! Terminal velocity is not one of those scientific things that we need to know because it teaches something about math. Terminal velocity is a fact about physics!”
“Well, Bruce, the classroom teacher did not understand terminal velocity. If you are teaching terminal velocity, you should not be confused!”
“But the teacher did understand terminal velocity. It was just that she didn’t understand it correctly.”
“Exactly, Bruce. Terminal velocity is one of those science things that is certain.”
It was enlightening to hear the positive and negative statements. The principle of PLI was clarified in a paradigm shift conversation. We can still teach terminal velocity but we are no longer teaching physics in the classroom, right?
“Possible, you understand that terminal velocity is one of those concepts like the tides. The more important is the idea of ‘critical mass’ – what makes the conclusion of a case more convincing? Terminal velocity is such a concept!”
For the last decades, when talking to math teachers, we have heard variations of the statement that “you can’t teach terminal velocity.” We also heard variations of the statement that “terminal velocity is not something we teach.” We still hear variations of the statement “it’s physics, Bruce,” but the last statement creates a whole new mess that teachers are left trying to unravel.
Traditional classrooms were designed for the 20th century, whether the training was in 1750 or 2018. In 20th century classrooms, most concepts were taught by those who already had teaching experience – some of whom had previously taught a different subject. As we enter the 21st century, with the recent “opinion shift” of other teachers advocating for the use of personalized learning, it may be time to reflect on changing the paradigms of pedagogy, with the new area of education that includes PLI.
Corporate trainer, Peter Phinney, (proprietor and creator of the Diligence Writing curriculum for English students) a 21st century classroom instructor, [email protected]
Hear Peter Phinney on a WFMU podcast and also on the web!