Problems with Standardized Education
Is Standardized Education Helpful or Harmful?
Education is a complex subject. It varies not only on a school-to-school basis but even within a school between teachers. Many organizations as large as the national government and as small as an individual school district have tried to standardize our so-called “education system”. I emphasize that phrasing because our education system, like the organizations, attempts to generalize and unify something that cannot and should not be generalized or unified. I have seen and personally experienced many of the issues with a generalized education system. Both students and teachers are all unique human beings with unique circumstances and lifestyles, and to either ask students to all learn the same ways or to ask teachers to all teach the same way is preposterous. Every student needs to be taught using the best methods available for that student in order for him to best learn and succeed.
This concept might seem simple and obvious, only the latter being true. However, ideal education is about as simple as a human brain, on which education places a strong focus. After all, is the brain not the body’s center of knowledge and learning? And more so than any other part of the body, the brain is unique. Every student has a unique brain that functions slightly differently and learns best in its unique way. According to the article “Understanding Student Differences”, a few main categories of differences exist (Felder and Brent 57). The most well known category listed is learning styles; all teachers should be familiar with the classic auditory, visual, and tactile-kinesthetic categorization of learning styles, though many others exist. Some teachers have great knowledge of these classifications and will try to utilize them to improve the learning atmosphere in the classroom, but more often than not a teacher will teach one way: the way they prefer. Unfortunately, any student less compatible with that style will suffer.
Approaches to Learning
The article gives another description of differences in students. “Approaches to learning and orientation to studying” concerns how a student approaches a course: either rote memorization; thorough, deep learning; or a mixture depending on which yields the best grade. Ideally, a teacher should try to guide her students to take the second approach, as the teacher should have some power to alter this in her students (58). In both of these elements of variation, a little extra effort from the teacher will open a class up to many more students, if not all of them. That extra mile also contributes to what makes some teachers better liked then others. Logically, a teacher who better reaches more of his audience will be preferred over a teacher who does not. In any case, a teacher who best incorporates all or most of the styles and caters to all the approaches will instill the greatest success and knowledge in the students.
When the teacher makes a small extra effort, both the student and the entire class benefits because when students become disengaged, they often become a distraction or disruption and thus ruin the learning environment for the rest of the class. Say you were in a Biology class, for example, and there are three or so students that excel and do not need to take notes and get bored during the teacher’s lectures, so they start to point out the teacher’s spelling errors and ask obnoxious questions, to the teachers and the classmates’ disdain. While one can argue that the students that excel just need to control themselves better, a much more beneficial solution that would help them control themselves and aid in the learning process in general would be to tailor the learning environment to something that would keep them more engaged. I would be more specific as to what that something was, but it varies from teacher to teacher and class to class.
When teachers do create a variable learning environment to accommodate more students, a class has the potential to be significantly more effective and beneficial to the students. When a teacher does not do this, students learn less and enjoy the class less.