I am Musing After Reading “Chat Room Musings” (by Mandy)

While I was very interested to learn that Pradl and Mayher actually produced the dialogue for “Chat Room Musing” in a chat room (a great example of how technology can be utilized!), I also find the content very important and progressive. Since I found it so interesting, while I was reading it I was constantly underlining ideas and opinions that they had, thinking to myself “Yes, this is to true!” Did anyone else feel the same? I really got interested in this piece on the second page of the interview when Pradl was describing the reading of texts in English classes as an isolated activity. Although they mostly refer to this philosophy as something of the past, I think it is still all too common in our classrooms. It wasn’t until my college classes that I was encouraged or even expected to connect my literary texts to the outside world, current events, or other subject areas, and this is a huge reason I struggled in my first year of college. Since I had never been expected to do these things, I didn’t really know how. Further, I am disturbed at the idea of having “a correct reading”, and for me, this idea ties directly into much of what Kozol and others critically write about the education system creating robots out of students, who conform rather than question or think about content  (Pradl & Mayher, 12). As Pradl and Mayher discuss, students should be far from robotic, and allowed and encouraged to argue and challenge content during the learning process. They should also be teachers, informing others of their interpretations, knowledge and opinions, and to “think about the big picture” in relation to their course material (13). There is nothing robotic about this type of learning.  I also loved the quote “Testing, testing everywhere, it seems, but not a thought to think”, which is a play on words from the famous Rime of the Ancient Mariner, by Samuel Coleridge, which states, “water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink”, because this statement is so true (16). As Jerry and I were discussing in class last week, the primary focus of education is typically the outcome, with total disregard on the experience and the “input”, and in my opinion, this is a huge disservice to students (18). What life lessons are we teaching them, if what they come to value most in life is measured by outcome? I found a statement by Pradl to be the most important passage in this text. On page 21, he writes “All veteran teachers know that they have had to keep leaning in order to survive. We have to keep learning because the demands of the classroom keep changing; we have to keep learning because the culture keeps changing; we have to keep learning because the student keeps changing; and we have to keep learning because the more we know, the more we understand how much more we need to learn” (21). I thought this was particularly insightful and a model attitude that teachers should embrace. I am interested to see how everyone else responded to this text.

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5 responses to “I am Musing After Reading “Chat Room Musings” (by Mandy)

  1. allison

    I thought the chat room format was clever, but after awhile, I didn’t really pay attention to who was saying what. The piece read smoothly on its own. I think the reason why this reading was so appealing was due to the colloquial style. It’s a refreshing change from the more “academic” style.

    I thought that the most powerful part was the assertion that teachers must keep up with changes. Whoever wrote the above post said it perfectly. “As Pradl and Mayher discuss, students should be far from robotic, and allowed and encouraged to argue and challenge content during the learning process. They should also be teachers, informing others of their interpretations, knowledge and opinions, and to “think about the big picture” in relation to their course material (13)” In a fast pased world, students should be encouraged to think critically and respond to the issues that come up in the readings. These issues should be relevant to their lives, as well as the lives of others (because I think we need to remember that reading can offer perspectives that are different from one’s own.)

    The discussion of teaching for an “outcome” is particularly complex. While I do not particularly believe in the standardized testing process, I think that the students should be able to demonstrate their ability by some means. Perhaps through an independent project. Maybe they would attempt to publish a journal article, or write a book. Whatever the method, I think that it is important to have some way of showing that the student has learned something from being in school. Afterall, what is the purpose of education if not to educate?

  2. jmdegan

    Allison, how does a task “showing that the student has learned something from being in school” have anything to do with educating students? I don’t know about anyone else, but I find it hard to believe that the only way we can think of assessing student learning is by having them demonstrate it on a high-stakes exit exam (whether that exam takes the shape of a stadardized test or a culminating project). I fail to see how we are showing student achievement by insisting that they demonstrate competency through one performance.

    I would prefer to see us giving more value to the experiences a student builds throughout the course of the year. Why do students attend 120 days of class if we only value 1? I would suggest that we find ways to acknowledge student achievement across a range of performances, not just one.

    I do not suggest that we ignore the required exams. That is the current practice in education and, as inane as the idea of exit exams are, it is our responsibility to our students to prepare them to take these exams. I would prefer a more authentic measure, like portfolio assessments that take a student’s body of work produced throughout the year, possibly across multiple curricular areas, into account, but that would require local rather than federal control of the education curriculum. But you can adapt portfolios and other alternative assessments into your classroom practice so that education isn’t defined as one event that defines a student’s education in your class. And I would also suggest that these assessment practices are better preparation for the exams (and careers) because they support good writing practices.

    Students “demonstrate their ability” all year, and we should measure the quality of those cumulative experiences, not the ability to perform a one-time task detached from the range of tasks performed over the course of a year.

    J. Degan

  3. ll123

    Public schools have been expected to be all things to all people, which is a mission impossible. The current challenge is how we, as educators, live up to the standard that the societies and parents expect us to. It is quite scary if we think about such responsibility seriously. In reading Pradl and Mayher’s Chat Room Musings, I appreciate Pradl’s notion that the student “has an important role to play in any lesson” (12); however, I doubt Mayher’s comment about grammar study “[is] robbing curricular time from real writing and reading experiences.” I, as a foreign student, really learned a lot through Masselink’s class about grammar last term. Personal experience tells me that basic skills are important as far as education is concerned. Now let’s look at the standardized test, I believe one time exit test is not fair for our students since anybody may have a bad day, yet I believe that some sort of test, or standard should be placed in our curriculum. As a matter of fact, this really involves with the conflict between the traditional and constructional methods. We cannot, for sure, say that which one is the most appropriate method since the demands of the classroom keep changing, the culture keeps changing, and the students keep changing as Pradl has said (21). It would be interesting to hear from my professor and peers’ opinion regarding this matter. I strongly suggest you to read Class Warfare if you have time because it helps me to see things from both sides. By L. L.

  4. allison

    Jerry,
    I am a little confused. As you quoted me, I said that we should show that a student has learned something in school. The you ask, “how does a task ‘showing that the student has learned something from being in school’ have anything to do with educating students?”

    In your reply post, you say “I would suggest that we find ways to acknowledge student achievement across a range of performances, not just one.”

    Is that not showing that a student has learned something? Isn’t assessing the “quality of those cumulative experiences” (you) a form of “showing a student has learned something” (me)?

    By my post, I simply was replying to the popular attacks on standardized testing. I simply meant to say that we need to remember that assessing students is still essential to teaching- both on a single day, and most importantly, everyday. Outcome must still be considered. I think that your ideas are good ones and we seem to agree that student progress needs to be measured in some way.

  5. jmdegan

    Allison-

    Assessment is essential- but not for the reasons that standardized examination intend. What do standardized exams test? Or even culminating projects? Yes, they measure outcomes, but I’m more interested in measuring process. I’m less interested in how a student performs on a high-stakes, on-demand writing sample as I am on how that student has developed as a writer over the course of a term. Let me ask, does a student who has improved from a below-grade literacy level to a fairly proficient level deserve a lower grade than a student who begins and ends the year at a proficient level? If we focus on outcome, than yes, the product of the former student is inferior and thus less desireable than the latter. But if we assess process as it develops throughout the course of a term, we can see how the former student improved dramatically, and acknowledge that improvement.

    Of course student improvement needs to be measured, but not for accountability, which is the underlying purpose of standardized exams. Assessment should inform instruction, pointing out areas that require attention. All to often assessment is seen as a means in and of itself, with numerical values that define student work. As I said before, we need to assess the quality of experience, not the outcome alone.

    Testing is the lay of the land, and so we have to prepare students for exams. But we can use more authentic assessments to make a profound impact on student learning in our classrooms. Administering a test just so students can demonstrate what they know is not assessment. There needs to be follow-up, a repairing of the gaps that emerge from our evaluation. Students should be writing with a focus on process; they should be reading with a focus on dialogue. Standardized exams don’t assess either of these well.

    J. Degan

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