Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Compare AND Contrast

This post by Miguel on Schooling By Design drives me up the wall. Miguel writes:

When I started in the District 5 years ago, I walked in with the background, arranging problem-based learning academies my first two summers in the District. Unfortunately, I didn't quite consider the 8 steps outlined in Our Iceberg is Melting and the C&I folks could have cared less about UBD...which was a shock.

Now, things appear to be changing...5 years later.

See, the problem here is that I read Miguel's blog, so I also know that he hasn't been writing about UbD for the past few years, and specifically he tends to write about Bloom's (revised) Taxonomy. Bloom's Taxonomy sucks compared to the UbD Facets of Understanding, and if you can't see why, you don't understand them.

Miguel summarizes some of the main points of the beginning of the book and adds:

In reviewing this alternative approach, it's clear that you can easily seen the problem-flow of problem-based learning or the Eisenberg and Berkowitz' Big6/Super3. These approaches easily fit in to the alternative approach to developing curriculum. In fact, re-reading this re-assures me that the way curriculum is handled in schools I'm familiar with is totally a waste of time...which is why I like technology-enhanced projects.

I appreciate Miguel's transparency into his crappy reading process here. What you do not want to do in reading a book like this, which is, in reality, deeper than the other things Miguel mentions, is jump to figuring out how it justifies other stuff you already believe. This is a recipe for not learning or changing. The Big6 overlaps the Facets of Understanding, but the Big6 is less ambitious and less profound. Rushing to overlay simple ideas over complex ones does not help you to understand the more complex ones, it just reassures you that you don't have to do any more work.

Miguel concludes:

The point is to change the mind and conduct of learners, not to make them merely knowledgeable. This reminds me of Friere's point for empowering learners...we are teaching for revolution and to accomplish that, we need wild learning spaces.

Focus, Miguel, focus! I would like to think Friere and UbD are not incompatible, but part of the appeal of UbD is that it is reformist, rather than revolutionary. It is very popular with actual school administrators. Jumping to Friere is not a good sales point for UbD, and if you're really interested in revolution, I'm not sure you want UbD, and I'm not sure that the post Miguel is linking to has anything to do with any of these issues.

Overall, Miguel seems to have attended the David Warlick school of reading, where every single thing you read miraculously confirms what you already knew and talk about in your talks.

OK, so Miguel gets the booby prize for tipping me over the edge on something which bothers me in a lot of other contexts as well. We -- meaning many US K-12 educational bloggers -- tend to do a lousy job of differentiating between various schemes and strategies for school or educational reform. We just sort of wave our hands a vague morass of undifferentiated correct-sounding happy talk. Rarely do we try to determine which of these things have more or less value than any other. In that sense, we haven't even started a conversation.


Unknown said...


I'm not sure you can make a valid comparison between UbD and Bloom's revised taxonomy. Bloom's originated as a way to classify test questions, and of course UbD is a totally different animal. I just think the reference of one being "suckier" than the other is a bit incongruous.


Miguel Guhlin (@mGuhlin) said...

Tom, what fascinating assertions. My goal in blogging about the reading is to share that I DO NOT UNDERSTAND this content. In fact, in the margins of my copy of the book, I write "I don't understand."

So, what you're getting with my blog isn't insights into what I DO KNOW beyond a shadow of a doubt, but rather, insights into what I'm ignorant about, what needs to be explored more and thought through.

I'll accept all your criticisms as valid, Tom. And, I invite you and other readers to step up and start a conversation that is both simple and addresses the real issues of school reform.

With appreciation for your feedback,

Miguel Guhlin
Around the Corner-MGuhlin.net

Miguel Guhlin (@mGuhlin) said...

Ok, I took some time to respond in more detail.


With appreciation,

Miguel Guhlin