To avoid a quick trip to the closest dictionary as I was forced to do the first time I encountered that mouthful word, think of it as shorthand for seeking actual changes in the real world. It reflects a desire, as we saw with the actual definition of “evidence-based policymaking,” where “the value of a theory lies in its ability to produce changes in the world.” Since this is a blog primarily about education, those real world changes can be at the level of a student’s physiology, changing them neurally. To quote a 2016 UNESCO paper called “A Conceptual Framework for Competencies Assessment,” those biological changes at an internalized, noetic level would be what anyone interested in transformational political, economic, and social change deems to be “essential to give each learner the cognitive, gestural and emotional capability, enabling him or her to act concretely in complex situations as a responsible citizen.”
No, each student does NOT get to come up with their own definition of what makes a responsible citizen. That’s the purpose of these learning standards and competency frameworks, properly understood, which is why there is so much deceit about the Common Core, competencies, and social and emotional learning generally. Student-centered, or personalized learning, should thus be viewed as grounded in “understanding the value of a theory through its consequences on naturalistic systems [that would be your child–a student, your school, or maybe your city] also borrows from Messick’s notion of evidence of consequential validity for testing. His argument is that the validity of a claim is based on the changes it produces in a given system. These changes or consequences can then be considered evidence in support of validity.”
Messick may not be a familiar name to you, but he was with Educators Testing Service at about the same time as the creation of Outcomes Based Education (OBE). Sure puts a more appropriate spin on what the actual outcomes were to be, doesn’t it? Remember how I keep warning that Portrait of a Graduate or Learner Profiles in state ESSA plans are merely a 21st century way to rebrand what was called Transformational OBE? That UNESCO paper is full of references to Learner “Exit Profiles” in case anyone has any doubt on how UN entities intend to accomplish their transformational SDG goals. Now lets stop the influence of the False Narratives and quote directly from a vision of Exit Profiles in a world where “the school is no longer regarded as the prime vector for the spreading of knowledge.” Yes, you might want to reread that and take a deep breath before we continue quoting:
“It then presupposes the acquisition of a system of values based on human rights in addition to the international rules of communication and behaviour in the educational world. These rules are essentially represented by life skills (notably encouraged by UNESCO, UNICEF and others), reflections of certain values inherent in the Western democratic countries and in their own way of thinking as societies: access to citizenship and practices linked to sustainable development in the domains of food, environmental friendliness, health, and so on.
The school is therefore induced to go beyond the disciplinary structure of education, which used to respond essentially to problem areas of content and knowledge. Today power no longer belongs to those who know, as it previously did, or even to those who seek, but to those who act–those who embark, who organize, who manage, and so on. Pure action no longer suffices today; a reflexive and critical analysis of actions and situations is also essential for meeting current challenges. The point is that the division into disciplines is no longer adapted to this logic of action.”
That would be why it is such a Red Herring for anyone to be writing or speaking about whether a state’s math standards prepare them to take Algebra as an 8th grader or ultimately Calculus. That was never the actual purpose of learning standards. It’s also why ESSA requires states to have performance standards, which require action, as the measure of student achievement or success. The quote involving Dr Messick above came from a paper from an Indiana University ed prof published in 2004 in The Journal of the Learning Sciences. Its co-author, Sasha Barab, was a keynoter at the https://www.imbes.org/2018-imbes-conference held in Los Angeles a few weeks ago.
I have written about the International Mind Brain Education Society before and there are references in the presentations made there to making sure the desired practices and theories become incorporated into UNESCO mandates and global standards. Barab has left the cold winters of Indiana now and joined the faculty of Arizona State, putting him at a place where transformationalist James Paul Gee (see tag) is also located as well as a Center of Sustainability with global tentacles. Barab’s IMBES presentation, in turn, emphasized his September 2009 article in Educational Leadership called “Why Educators Should Care About Games”. It gives us a first-rate insight into the new purpose of curriculum that fits closely with what is described in that UNESCO document, but it is not a shift parents are likely to recognize. Let’s take a look at the purpose of the sought transformational play that can be designed into virtual reality curricula.
“We focus on building game-based learning environments in which students play an important role using academic knowledge to make decisions that influence, for better or worse, the designed storyline. Thus, these virtual spaces transform learners in three ways: (1) they transform a person from a passive recipient to an empowered actor, (2) they transform content from information that the learner has to remember to a tool that the learner can use to accomplish desired ends, and (3) they transform context from an assurance that ‘this knowledge will be relevant in the future’ to a present reality that responds to the learner’s actions.”
If you print out this post or Barab’s article, you can do what I did and write the word “dialectical” in the margin by that 3rd way of “transforming the learner” at a noetic, physiological level. Later, the article reiterates that the new purpose of academic content, i.e., “knowledge connected to disciplines–such as investigative research and writing–serves as one of the most fundamental tools for making sense of the world and acting effectively in it.” If, like me, you know someone well who programs or creates computer software, it will be hard to get over the feeling that the new purpose of academic content and prescribed learning experiences, such as virtual reality games, is programming human minds and personalities, without that individual or their parents’ knowing consent.
It is the action that forces the desired neurological change in ways that can then become embedded Habits of Mind. After all, these educational games were created because:
“we want students to see the value of the content they learn for other situations. If a learner never realizes how this virtual experience relates to real-life experiences, then the game playing will have been engaging but not productive. Becoming a hero within a virtual world should enable students to see themselves as people capable of using what they learn to successfully transform their world and to continue growing as scientists, historians, or writers.”
In other words, science, history, and writing are no longer about disciplinary knowledge. They are the source of activities that can be used to change the student from the inside to alter their future behavior in the outside, real world. I am going to close with the ending of the paper, but readers may want to go back to Chapter 1 of my book Credentialed to Destroy to appreciate the transformational purposes of John Dewey’s Ideal of Learning. I was not going to bring in Uncle Karl, but this is unquestionably closely tied to his vision of the Human Development Society to be created once Man became a Maker of History. This quote follows the paragraph just above.
“By helping students connect virtual accomplishments to real-life scenarios, we lead learners closer to John Dewey’s ideal of learning. Dewey (1938/1963) argued that education should be about giving learners the motivation and expertise to act in problem-filled contexts where applying that expertise makes a difference. Dewey’s vision of schooling is quite different from the education experience most students have today, which involves amassing knowledge with the promise of someday bringing it to bear on the world. In contrast, when students solve problems in virtual scenarios, they get a taste of the real-world power of academic content.”
Just like UNESCO envisions.
With no sense of just how thoroughly they are now being manipulated by school, prescribed educational experiences, and the true nature of student assessments.