Harnessing the Meaning Making Capacities of the Human Mind and then Assessing for the Tightness of the Fit

We talked about NAEP in the last post so we could begin to appreciate its real purpose as both a driver and a monitor of using education to mentally deconstruct any concept of learning as the transmission of factual knowledge. In fact, whenever we see the phrase “meaningful learning” from now on, let’s just be upfront that it means changes in a student’s mind or personality intended to reliably guide future behavior as desired. The quote at the beginning of that title comes from a 2000 book Assessing Science Understanding: A Human Constructivist View that asserted that science is no longer about a body of facts and information about how the world works transmitted from a textbook or a teacher. No, “science is best understood as a formalized and highly adaptive way of harnessing the meaning making capacities of the human mind.”

To ‘Understand’ then in math, science, history, or while reading a book is to interpret in the manner someone else has stipulated so that students will practice perceiving and behaving as desired until these behaviors become unconscious habits. Locked in at a physical level in the brain’s neural pathways. That is what is being assessed and why we keep coming back to an insistence that the ‘performances’ or ‘achievements’ be action-based. It’s why we are getting such a push for Project-based Learning. When I went through the activities in that book, they were not about learning a body of knowledge. They were training students to view the world in a certain way. Did you know back in the mid-80s as these reforms were being dreamed up there was even a term invented for what would be sought-observational competence? Is the student noticing the themes or aspects desired in a given situation and ignoring the elements we would rather not be the focus of attention?

When I called attention to the idea of that ‘proficiency’ under NAEP and state standards after the adoption of NCLB in 2002 was about Proficiency Standards for Reasoning, I found this document   http://www.mathleadership.com/sitebuildercontent/sitebuilderfiles/standardsofpracticematrix.pdf assuring me that the Common Core would meet these action-based concepts of the desired proficiency. The students may not know much, but they will have been trained and primed over years to act in certain ways based on stipulated prompts. And look, there are 3 levels of achievement just like what the Every Child Achieves Act requires each state to have as its “aligned academic achievement standards” that will constitute how the ‘content standards’ will be met. Prescribed behaviors. Harness the mind and then ‘assess’ to see if the harness fits properly and guides behavior as desired. If so, herald the student as performing ‘proficiently’ or ‘competently’ and thus being College and Career Ready.

http://www.heinemann.com/fountasandpinnell/supportingMaterials/lli/AlignmentWithNAEP.pdf is not Math or ‘science’ but it is the vision for learning to read and write and then what will be the ELA activities using the Fountas & Pinnell curriculum so beloved by the Common Core (described in Chapter 7 of my book on the Learning Progression). Isn’t it good to know these prescribed literacy activities involve “very specific behaviors and understandings are written for each level and built into every individual lesson?” How very harness-like. Get each student used to the jerk of the tether while they are still young and their minds are oh-so-malleable to manipulation. That link also makes it clear that NAEP after 2000 was being used to quietly implement the performance and proficiency standards from the New Standards Project that grew out of that National Education Goals Panel we met in the last post.

No wonder the National Center for Education and the Economy reuploaded the entire NSP body of work back in December 2010. Just in time to pretend it is actually something new called the Common Core and in time for an ESEA reauthorization like ECAA. NSP’s Performance Standards simply get euphemised as ECAA’s “aligned achievement standards” that quickly gets defined away as just “challenging state academic standards” for the rest of the Act. As if we are still talking about the transmission of knowledge brought to us by the Greatest Minds Who Have Ever Lived. No, instead we get ‘sense-making’ from our prescribed activities using the supplied ideas, themes, principles, and concepts intended to function as a politically transformative mental and emotional harness.

I think it is hard for readers of this blog to fully appreciate how confining this manipulative vision of reading, math, and science will be since we all have Axemaker Minds of some type or another. Some minds may be better stocked than others with accurate facts and abilities to infer, but all of us still had some kind of a knowledge orientation to our K-12 and college experiences. That Heinemann language and the fact we are talking about 6 year olds being manipulated should give some idea of just how constraining and invisible this behavioral harness can become. ECAA though wants to push preschool for all as a basic right so we are actually going back even younger than 5 or 6. We also do not have to speculate about what the “early childhood care and education” vision that fits with this competency/proficiency approach looks like.

New Zealand–tied to the Innovation Lab Network and Competency through the GELP-Global Education Leaders Program that we have discussed on this blog (see tag) adopted Te Whariki–the National Early Childhood Curriculum in the 90s to go along with what was then called Transformational Outcomes Based Education (detailed in Chapter 4 of my book explaining Competency and its history). We know that in 1998 the US-based ERIC asked that the Te Whariki papers be submitted to its database. Te Whariki pushes a developmental approach that rejects the old “focus on the learner as an individual, and learning as furniture in the mind.” Instead, learning is the change brought about in the student as a result of “responsive and reciprocal relationships with people places and things.”

Someone obviously hates commas, but they like hyphens as they see the student as an “individual-in-action” interacting in social, cultural  and purposeful contexts. I mentioned Urie Bronfenbrenner and the Great Experiment in the last post. Te Whariki is explicitly grounded in his Ecological Systems Theory that is concisely explained here.  https://www.uncg.edu/hdf/facultystaff/Tudge/Bronfenbrenner%202005.pdf So are competency and proficiency-based concepts of learning. They all intend to create ‘dispositions’ or “habits of mind, tendencies to respond to situations in certain ways.” And if those dispositions start being baked in and turned into a harness back in early childhood programs (the quote came from the Te Whariki paper) the adolescent and then young adult voter need not even know the harness and guiding bit are there at all.

Te Whariki gives a definition of assessment that fits with where formative assessments intend to go in the US and elsewhere: “the primary purpose of assessment should be to provide information which can be used to identify strengths and guide improvement.” All that is based on what people with political power decide they want to see in the citizens of tomorrow, not what parents or the children themselves want. This harness view of education also gets marketed as a thinking curriculum and it was laid out, before the 90s controversies, in a 1991 book by Edward Fiske called Smart Schools, Smart Kids: Why Do Some Schools Work? once again financed by the Carnegie Corporation that now sponsors Competency-based Education.

I keep hearing news reports wrongly describing what are now performance assessments or other means of checking for the presence and efficacy of the mental harness as ‘standardized tests’. Fiske’s book complained that “the most damaging aspect of standardized tests, though, is their impact  on the curriculum. Since states test reading and math, this is what schools emphasize. [Horrors!! Let’s revise the NAEP.] But in doing so they focus on basic skills and factual knowledge that such tests measure and direct schools’ attention from the new agenda of teaching students to think.”  The book then quoted Lauren Resnick (who will go on to co-direct the New Standards Project and be on the Common Core validation committee. She also chaired the 1987 committee that produced the report on Higher Order Thinking Skills a/k/a Teaching Students to Think in a Way that Serves as a Harness) and her husband Daniel.

“Current tests are tuned to a curriculum of the past, one that is not suited to today’s social and economic conditions…[The Resnicks advocate transitioning all students to tests grounded in] Goals such as interpreting unfamiliar texts, constructing convincing arguments, understanding complex systems, developing approaches to problems, or negotiating problem resolutions in a group” that sounds just like the learning tasks and means for assessment being touted as part of the Common Core classroom or a competency/proficiency-based classroom. Fiske’s book also pointed out that powerful tests like the NAEP are a “high-stakes game in itself” and that “whoever controls those powerful tests will control a large measure of what is taught and learned in American schools.”

Once again, that’s why the mandate of ‘aligned achievement standards’ in ECAA that forces a behavioral or performance-based, consistent with Universal Design for Learning, approach in every school in every state matters so very much. It’s a way the federal government mandates the construction of a harness while pretending to return control to states and localities.  Specifying the hows of testing is controlling those tests and the curriculum itself. I want to close with what Linda Darling-Hammond said in Fiske’s book since she is the author of the New Paradigm being pushed for what will constitute meaningful learning. https://edpolicy.stanford.edu/sites/default/files/publications/accountability-college-and-career-readiness-developing-new-paradigm.pdf Standardized testing back when it was still fact-based and right-answer oriented was supposedly based on the “dubious assumption that there is a single right answer to any question worth asking.”

LDH viewed the old-fashioned standardized test as the “triumph of passive learning. It is testing for the TV generation. We don’t ask if students can synthesize information, solve problems, or think independently. We measure what they recognize.” So back in 1991, when she was still a professor at the Teachers College at Columbia, Hammond, like Lauren Resnick, was very involved in advocating for a thinking kind of curriculum that fits with a Harness Function.

No wonder both professors remain so involved now in guiding the actual classroom implementations both in the US and globally through the OECD.

28 thoughts on “Harnessing the Meaning Making Capacities of the Human Mind and then Assessing for the Tightness of the Fit

    • And all that ‘learning’ is in real life contexts as long as the taxpayer funds keep rolling in to create the programs.

    • This was written by the author I am focussed on this weekend. Notice content is now a mode of thought. http://www.criticalthinking.org/pages/international-center-for-the-assessment-of-higher-order-thinking/589

      That sure will make it easier to align achievement standards won’t it? Paul, back in the 80s in essays published in Educational Leadership called this kind of thinking ‘dialectical’. He also describes the kind of malleability we associate now with Dweck’s Growth Mindset. He also said these are the kind of minds necessary for a 21st century society pledged to using governments as a would-be servant to achieve the common good.

      Tell that to the people in Wisconsin we talked about yesterday in the comments. Do the Clintons use the government for the common good or their own? Should we ask the people of Haiti?

      Going to be an informative weekend. Also discovered that back in 1987 Jeremy Kilpatrick contributed to Allen Schoenfeld’s Cognitive Science and Math Education book. Continues to show that ultimately an understanding of constructivism as described in my book is necessary to see where this all turns into cognitive science or cybernetics. Paul also cites Lauren Resnick’s 1987 HOTS report. That original post from almost 2 years ago now is here. http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/muzzling-minds-all-over-the-globe-while-trumpeting-higher-order-skills/

      Rainy weekend reading that remains quite relevant to all these new assessments. Norman Webb’s Depth of Knowledge rubric, by the way, was actually developed for this new type of science education. Like Paul he believes that once learned it can apply to other fields because it is a kind of thinking. Yes it is–dialectical thinking ready to exchange the old for a new synthesis with everything always in flux.

        • I heard Ken Robinson speak at the CoLab summit here in September 2013. Man has no interest in the transmission of knowledge and like Howard Gardner and EllioTT Eisner, he takes his work from Arts Education and then applies it across the Board. I think that is less an SEL program than a Whole Child emphasis. Newnan is also the area where the various connected people started the Economic Development program of the State Bar that meets every two years. Everyone elected to city or county councils is supposed to attend. That was the program in December where I asked the Head of the Senate Economic Development committee to verify my understanding that the reason no one in the legislature wanted to repeal the Common Core adoption was it was actually tied to workforce development. Hr agreed I was right and seemed a bit shocked I knew to ask.

          No indication anyone can actually read better, but if they graduate maybe they can get Hope and begin paying into the higher ed system that is such a big employer all over the state. Remember what I pointed out in my book. Georgia’s NCLB waiver has language approved by the feds that an inability to read should not prevent promotion. Then group projects can take over after a while and doing videos instead of writing. All interesting stuff but nothing to make someone worth more than minimum wage to an employer. Especially if the now adult believes the employer should change the nature of work to reflect what interests him or fits his communication style.

          Robinson also has a real chip on what happen to the Liverpool he grew up in. I think in his world of speaking engagements and Getty gigs the idea that some regions cannot be economically saved and may have brought the deterioration on themselves is not an acceptable response.

          • Let me know if you want to make some steeped chicken broth with chopped fresh garlic, ginger, thinly shaved onions, dried red pepper, lemon juice, lemon zest, and whatever else comes to mind. Oh, celery leaves and a bit of a stalk. I would let it boil covered for about 15 minutes and then sit covered for at least another 30 minutes. It finally is what got my chest not to hurt.

            Of course hubby would come into the kitchen with a “what’s that smell?” He used to have a similar reaction to my brewing Lapsang Souchong tea. “Did something burn?”

            Somewhere also I know that Newnan is involved in a national consortium on project-based learning and career pathways. I can remember whose question prompted me to stumble across. Also tied to much of what is being pushed in Colorado. The name will come to me at some point.

            That area is also pioneering early childhood. http://www.cowetaschools.org/index.php/research-a-innovation/180-early-learning-initiatives

            They probably do not know the Maori phrase Te Whariki, but I bet that have the developmental practices down.

          • Sound familiar? http://www.centraleducationalcenter.net/Resources/5_Chapter_2–The_CEC_Experience_final_with%20weblink.pdf

            Basically piloting sector strategies, blending cte into academics, career pathways. What is now being nationalized.

            In an update since I did recognize this as the model, here’s a 2002 ERIC paper on this as a model for others. http://www.centraleducationalcenter.net/Resources/5_Chapter_2–The_CEC_Experience_final_with%20weblink.pdf

            No wonder it’s on Ken Robinson’s radar. It’s sold as the Economic Development Strategy. The paper would coincide with the start of that program at the state bar level.

            That clarifies so much and it’s a School to Work mint. “Reconceptualizing Education as an Engine of Economic Development” and have all the advocates be people already living on the public payroll. Also cites to a 2002 Ed Week article jointly written by Richard Riley and Lamar Alexander. I guess they really do have the same vision when it comes to education. Explains so much then and now.

            I have a hard copy now too.

        • My impression from reading that is the school was a basket case and now it’s under better control and the students are having better experiences.

          Sometimes students do have real social and emotional problems, and teachers in this case can be more than purveyors of subject matter. I have no objection to the school improving these students’ lives.

          What I do object to is more fortunate schools that are taking in robustly capable and mentally healthy kids, those on the way to developing intellectual capability and independence, and pathologizing them, bringing in heavy psychological conditioning, as a means to convert them to something else deemed more socially desirable by those who think they get to decide such things.

  1. http://www.unitedway-pdx.org/early-learning
    It is not hard to spot this stuff once you grasp the model. I knew the HUBS were part of something larger. In the white paper OR has about their development it talks about inter-agency data collaboration, even using federal FERPA and HIPPA waivers.

    Oregon was one of the first states to join the STW movement, our Vera Katz
    was involved with the pilot here with Clinton and NCEE. Lamar Alexander flew to OR to praise the effort. Go figure. Posted the hot link because the paper is available by many sources.

    • Those are quite the influential 23 groups quite aware of what is really going on. I have been in presentations from many of them. I keep remembering the Michael Barber/ Vicki Phillips recipe for Irreversible Change–Pray, then Believe. Force the Behaviors Repeatedly around certain ideas and those ideas will come to be believed whether true or not.

      If people notice all the references to “analyze student’s reasoning” in this recent paper http://www.nciea.org/publication_PDFs/CADRE%20CFA-StudentGrowthReport-Final.pdf and the references to tasks and then remember these are higher-order tasks at a desired level of Cognitive Rigor. That means there is no right answer. The student’s reasoning and strategies when there is no right answer is being measured and monitored and manipulated with new activities as necessary to create desired future behaviors. As Richard Paul wrote in a paper from the 80s I read this weekend, facts do not alter future behavior or motivate someone to act in the first place. That’s also the push for engagement to integrate affect into the practiced actions prompted around supplied ideas.

      That noetic social engineering locked in at a neural level to have predictable psychosocial effects is what Congress is mandating once these definitions are fully explored. I know it, you do too, and so do those 23 groups.

      • The demos as described are probably fine. Airplane pilots get certified on a simulator. (And from the data collected, after analysis that wasn’t done soon enough, we know that Lubitz practiced his Germanwings crash on the simulator!)

        There should be restrictions on data collected from these non-professional classroom exercises.

        • I am not following you. A simulator has you acting like you are flying a plane. Hubby is a pilot and we have lots of airline pilots who are friends. I still remember when aerobatics got added to simulators to remind professional pilots that planes do not care they are upside down so that pilots quite panicking as they did in the Embrauer crashes.

          That is not what formative assessment involves. Remember no right answer and what do you do in an untaught situation.

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