Hard Data From Our Classrooms

Hard Data From Our Classrooms

How are we doing on the path to deeper learning? At the ASCD gathering in Houston I sat in on a presentation by McRel International, the large education consulting group out of Denver.  They shared some fascinating data, and with their permission I am sharing some highlights with you.  Over the last decade, McRel consultants have logged nearly 1.1 million classroom visits where they have done a very short observation of what is taking place in the classroom.  The data were collected in 44 states and 16 countries (I think I got that right) across all grade levels and subject areas of K-12 education.  Here are a few of the cumulative statistics that grabbed my attention and should grab that of anyone who cares about the future of learning:

  • Of the 14 different primary instructional strategies they differentiate, just three categories add up to 50% of the observed class time: teachers giving cues and asking questions; teacher-provided practice; students giving feedback to teacher.
  • Of the major elements of Bloom’s Taxonomy, 49% was being spent on “Remember” and “Understand” and only 5.5% of “Create”.
  • 52% of time classrooms were organized in the “whole group” while just 3% of time was spent in “cooperative groups”.
  • 57% of teachers used no technology during the observations, and technology was being used by teachers for data collection or analysis just 1% of the time.

The big takeaway I had from this is that there is an ENORMOUS gap between schools where learning is actually shifting away from the industrial age assembly line, and those where it is not. Clearly the majority of schools have not begun this shift in any meaningful way, while a minority…public, private, and charter…have begun the transformation.  Is this inertia leading to yet another bifurcation of American society, along with the widening gaps in income disparity and opportunities for upward mobility in social and economic class?  The data suggest that is the case.

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