Right place, right time

Restored from the trash bin, posted for the correct week this time. 

I pulled this from the Wiggins and McTighe article:

“We recommend that schools develop a public syllabus for every course, which articulates the course’s transfer-meaning-acquisiton priorities and concomitant assessments. Such an approach offers a practical means of freeing high school instruction from the dominance of the textbooks and its emphasis on acquisition. The textbook should serve as a resource, not as the syllabus.”

I am intrigued by the idea of a public syllabus. Where is this syllabus posted? Who has access to it? I can see how using and organizational structure like the one proposed in the article could really help teachers to understand why they are teaching a particular lesson and what their goals are at each step. I am sure that articulating the transferability of a course could also help a teacher to address transfer. I wonder how putting this knowledge in a public forum might effect the public’s approach to education.

How People Learn says that “knowledge that is overly contextualized can reduce transfer; abstract representations of knowledge can help promote transfer” (53). I find this concept to be a knife edge. We want to provide good context, so that a student can effectively complete a task, but we don’t want to confine learning to the context or they won’t transfer. This is particularly hairy when you also consider  that “it is important to be realistic about the amount of time it takes to learn complex subject matter.” (56) Very possibly, the transfer won’t take place until much, much later. Then what?

3 thoughts on “Right place, right time

  1. Naomi says:

    I like the idea of a public syllabus. So often as a teacher it was strange that there was this level of mystery between parents and the classroom. If parents knew what I was teaching in the classroom, they could also develop it with what they knew from the public syllabus. It could also hold everyone accountable. I often wished I knew what was going on in the 6th grade classroom so I didn’t repeat.

    In the library, I think this would be even more important. I am currently working on a project with a school librarian who does’t always know what is happening in the classroom. Think of all of the collaboration that could happen! Public librarians could be aware of what was going on in various schools as well!

    So, what will it take to make this possible? I know current teaching trends are pushing for long range “Scope and Sequence” plans, so it wouldn’t be that much of a stretch to make these plans available. When I planned, I planned for the whole quarter. But teachers also need to have flexibility to go back and reteach, changing the schedule.

    If they were public, would people read them? I know a lot of teachers who had weekly newsletters with plans that went straight to the recycling bin…

  2. linguomancer says:

    I also really like the idea of a public syllabus and the opportunity for teachers to learn from each other. For all we know, some teachers may be familiar with their material but unclear on how or where it can transfer, which may be why they fail to teach that transfer, and certainly a public syllabus could help with that.

    Your question about transfer vs. context is one that I also had. I was thinking during reading that maybe it would be a good idea to introduce the idea of transfer before getting into the contextualized lesson too deeply (like a brief introduction explaining various times and situation when you might use this). Then you are at least grounding the lesson in the idea of transfer, and you can later demonstrate and prove that transferability when the students have a firmer grasp of the ideas themselves. Not sure how that would work in practice, though!

  3. Shauna says:

    i’m going to follow the trend and give a big thumbs up to the public syllabus idea. classroom teachers can often be ridiculously alienated, so i think that any opportunity for transparency and sharing of ideas is soooo important.

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