Déjà Vu All Over Again

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Déjà Vu All Over Again

“Our society and its educational institutions seem to have lost sight of the basic purposes of schooling. This is hardly surprising, given the multitude of often conflicting demands we have placed on our Nation’s schools”  A Nation at Risk – 1983

If you have been around the education sector a while you probably noticed that what is trending are simply makeovers from the past.

Horace Mann in the 1800s advocated for civic responsibility and character education. Now we call it bullying prevention and restorative justice.

John Dewey in the early 1900s advocated for hands-on experiences: Get involved, try out your ideas, learn by doing. Now we call it project-based learning. (note that Maria Montessori built her practices on this. Jerome Bruner called it Discovery Learning which led to Constructivism.)


Modular learning from the 1970s was individualized learning based on student choice and individual pacing. It was based on Helen Parkhurst’s work (circa 1914). Now we call it personalized learning.

The foundations of collaborative learning are based on Lev Vygotsky’s (early 1900s) emphasis on the inherent nature of social learning.

Competency-based learning evolved from Benjamin Bloom’s Mastery Learning and his “whole child” taxonomies of the 1950s in the cognitive, affective, and psychomotor domains.

Even new learning technologies are based on Skinner’s self-directed learning through immediate feedback and correction.

Maybe norm references tests and open classrooms will be making a come-back soon.

“Those who don’t learn from history are destined to repeat it” George Santayana


Kristine Carton

June 28, 2015at 8:12 pm

There is a quote from my favorite author on what a teacher is, “What is a teacher? I’ll tell you: it isn’t someone who teaches something, but someone who inspires the student to give her best in order to discover what she already knows.” (Paulo Coelho) I feel like in all of these reworkings of the best way to teach, this may be what is missing. Instead of continuing the cycle of recycling educational trends, I think it would be best to take what others have told us to inspire the discovery of new techniques. In an article that I read posted on this site called “Effective Feedback” written by Grant Wiggins, he states that “Decades of education research support the idea that by teaching less and providing more feedback, we can produce greater learning”. I’m seeing a connection here with the theme of “teaching less”. Learning is a more meaningful process when discovered on ones own. Being able to take ownership for the steps and process taken to reach a goal is enriching and as educators, if we are unable to learn from history, we cannot expect our students to learn from its methods either. I believe it is time to shift into higher gears with technology. We are safe from the risk of it becoming obsolete and students have the opportunity to network with students around the world. I cannot wrap my head around why more of this does not happen when tools such as Google earth and Skype are available. With tools such as these students will be better prepared for the way the current world functions with the “It’s all about who you know” trend. Lets help students take what they know and collaborate with others locally, nationally and around the world. More importantly, lets stop repeating history.

Anna Terry

June 29, 2015at 2:13 pm

As a pre-service teacher, I had many opportunities to discuss this issue with teachers. Depending on how long the teacher had been teaching I did see a theme in their responses. A lot of teachers indicated frustrations with the common core and the standardized testing. They also indicated that given some time that this phase would pass. They hoped that they could get past this current phase quickly. A few teachers embraced it and I could tell that they were not tired of teaching. I think stability is a necessity for our students but it is oh so important to change things around so that they don’t get boring in the classroom. Change is good. As a future business teacher I can clearly see the correlation to a cycle. The economic/business world is a cycle too.

Gina Voytek

June 30, 2015at 10:41 pm

Hi Laura – I really liked this blog. I recently took the History of Education course where we examined the history of education in the United States. We learned about Ben Franklin (self-taught master of all trades), Horace Mann (wanted universal education), Booker T. Washington (an advocate for self help and change for the better), and John Dewey (believed in active learners & students learning through experiences). These are just a few of the many educational leaders we learned about, and yes, we too made the correlation that educational philosophies tend to be cyclical, depending upon what is trending or not. I think it is important to learn from our past, and there are many educational philosophies and beliefs that have worked over the years, and some that did not. By dissecting our past, we should be able to pull out the methods of teaching beliefs that worked the best, build on them, and move towards positive change in our educational system for the future. Instead of reinventing new ideologies (and public policies), let’s regroup and examine the ideas that brought success to our schools and our students in the past.


July 5, 2015at 10:29 am

As my first year working in public schools and learning about the education system in America I see the different renditions of the founding theories that last in our schools. I think that we can also relate this to the common core. We are using a set of standardized objectives to help assess the student’s in our nation’s progress. As a native to Connecticut I have seen mostly progressive teachers and communities embrace these standards and slightly change their lessons to meet the expectations. However, I was just visiting family in the state of Mississippi and not only were their signs posted in neighborhoods reading “common core destroys education,” but also people petitioning against them. I think that what the general public needs to realize is that these standards are simply a rendition of education practices to help measure the progress of all the students in our nations, not to sabotage “free choice” in learning. We all need to learn the foundations of reading in math and the common core merely guides teachers on how to do so.

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