ERIC Number: ED440146
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2000-Jan-27
Pressure Cooker: Experiences with Student-Centered Teaching and Learning in High-Stakes Assessment Environments.
High stakes testing is a given in many public school districts in the United States. This paper reports the chilling effect high stakes testing had on the pedagogy of one teacher. The study took place in a large Midwestern urban district where a university consultant observed a fifth-grade classroom. This researcher was able to observe and document a teacher who attempted to engage in purposeful change in her teaching style and classroom structure. The instructor decided to teach a unit on the Age of Exploration, a long-term inquiry project about explorers. She divided the class into six groups of five and sat them at individual tables. She started the project by covering her curriculum in a traditional manner, but once she determined what the students knew about explorers, she instructed the students to choose one question, either one of their own or one from another group, and do research and discover the answer. The students were then asked to take a series of weeks to prepare a report, both written and visual, to present to the school community. Over the next several weeks, the students researched at the school library, connected to the Internet, and looked at classroom resources on their topics. The teacher's role became more of a coach in which the shift of responsibility for learning was on the student. As a result, she watched the students enter the world of discovery and inquiry on a topic that genuinely engaged the entire class. The project was a complete success; two of her groups gave very impressive and sophisticated presentations on the topics of "navigation" and "supplies". The teacher noted, "It's amazing how smart kids get when you teach them this way." However soon after the completion of the exploration project, the principal called a faculty meeting. He made a direct order to the school teachers stating, "Don't teach anything that isn't on the Iowa test". He then reminded the teachers about probation, testing success, and job security. After the meeting, the fifth grade teacher felt compelled to return to a traditional classroom setting and abandon her efforts toward a student-centered pedagogy. When faced with the pressure of high-stakes assessment, sadly, the teacher returned to a more teacher-directed classroom where students were once again isolated from one another. She stated, "The constructivist stuff is nice, but we have real work to do now." (Contains 4 figures and 16 references.) (SLD)
Publication Type: Reports - Descriptive; Speeches/Meeting Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A