I’m a podcast lover, and I recently took the chance to listen to some episodes of one of your podcasts, Class Disrupted (with Dianne Tavener). I know you’ve been thinking about meritocracy and education. When you think on a teacher level (most of our readers are teachers), what can or should teachers do to rethink the way that we talk about and assess merit in our classrooms?
The first thing to do is step back and recognize that the way schools function isn’t preordained. It doesn’t have to be this way. The way school is structured now forces teachers to make distinctions between students and sort them into pathways and tracks. That conflicts with what we know about human development, that people have jagged profiles, different strengths and weaknesses. To judge them with some finality is the opposite of the growth mindset that most teachers want to build. So, what can teachers do with that tension?
One move to make is to step away from the model of the whole class of students always operating in lock-step. Instead, maybe you could flip the classroom to use class time for discussion and homework time for individual work where you need it. Or you could do something more complex, moving to a mastery based learning model where students move on as they master and the role of the teacher is to coach and motivate and guide. We need to think about our time in the classroom: how do we really use the time that we’re given to best meet each student with what’s really going to engage them?