Monday, April 6, 2015

7 Words that Educators Need to Stop Using

Educators don't have to stop saying these words, but they need to think about whether or not they are using them to hide arguments that lack substance.


Here are a few thoughts on how to strengthen the conversation. You might agree that we don't need some of them.

1. Cover

This one is the worst offender on the list. Please don't cover anything. It will be hard to see, which is exactly what happens when teachers "cover the material." What if we think about content that is uncovered by the students. I guess if you take it too literally, like I do, you might see the problem.

2. Rigor

Not only is this word misunderstood, it's a terrible way to describe activities that require students to think about what they need to do next to solve problems. Prove me wrong. In the next year, keep track of how many classroom teachers who plan "rigorous" activities use this word to describe what their students are doing.

I bet you'll develop an aversion to hearing administrators say it. I bet the truly rigorous lessons are not thought of that way. They probably just include teachers coaching students on how to solve problems in lieu of the teacher giving away answers.

3. Targets

Not a great word for schools these days. What was wrong with objective? Did someone think that changing the word would change the culture. And by the way, posting a question based on the standard is far more effective for learning.

What's more, the posted objective is easier for administrators to notice without interrupting, so whatever data is used to support posting objectives is clouded by the fact that it is easy for admin to check on teachers. This ensures that teachers are thinking about and using learning objectives. That's what leads to more learning, not posting it for students.

4. Differentiation 

This is the only word that I wouldn't mind taking off the list. It's not troublesome like the other words. Perhaps the only thing that bothers me is the lack of specific examples used to accompany use of the word. How else are educators going to develop a collective context for teaching and learning?

5. Technology

Everything humans make to facilitate completing tasks is technology. Language is technology. Pencils and paper are very important technology. Perhaps if we train more teachers on how to use "technology," they would understand the pedagogy that goes well with each digital tool. That's what we'll call it all, "tools."

6. Homework

Who wants to work at home? I do work (or learning) at home, but it's the kind of work that I like to do, which is mostly reading, discussing issues on Twitter, and looking up answers to my questions.

The word "homework" is not going away, but we need to rethink how our parents and students think about it. We can start by not assigning the same homework for everyone. The homework assignment should be based on assessment results and it doesn't need to be mandatory unless the student needs more practice to support their own learning process.

7. Enrichment

Enrichment is not required for graduation. I guess I'm glad these courses are not tied to graduation because they would be overemphasized and ruined by the pressure students would feel to succeed. They have enough of that.

But what if all classes were like enrichment? Usually these classes include less stress on the part of the teacher that gets transferred to the students. Yes, this happens. What can teachers of core classes do to make learning more like enrichment?

You can help move the conversation forward with your comments.