“Hollowed Out” Ideas

Is it weird that I see this in education?

I’ve been working my way through Garfield Gini-Newman and Roland Case’s Creating Thinking Classrooms.

Lines like these sound a lot Pollan’s worries about the food industry to me:

“Teaching practices are understandably the most pressing focus of teachers’ attention – their survival depends on what they do and what they have their students do each day.   It is therefore predictable that, when faced with calls for educational change, attention turns to what this means in terms of their practical implications.  It is not that attention to practices is wrong-headed. Our concern is that the practices get ‘hollowed out’ –  they start off well-intended but often become cardboard versions of their original selves.  In short, they get lost in translation.”


“More recently we have seen the hollowing out of various efforts to implement inquiry learning.  Without a deep understanding of the principles and purpose of inquiry, this complex orientation to teaching and learning can be reduced to a five-step method for conducting independent research.  Inquiry understood in this way is likely to have minimal impact: the difference may simply be that instead of using the textbook to find facts, students search for them on the internet. Properly understood, to inquire is to ask questions where the answers are not already known – requiring students to draw their own critical conclusions.  This interpretation of inquiry need not involve formal steps to follow nor does it require sending students to the computer lab.   In fact, inquiry can be conducted with and about the textbook.  Only if teachers understand the principles behind inquiry will adopting this initiative make any real difference to student learning.”

While I can appreciate new strategies and new books an new initiatives I wonder if there’s any way to keep these ideas from being “hollowed out”.  Maybe there needs to be more dialogue around how we make new ideas fit our students.  Instead of talking about “the new thing”, maybe educator PD needs to be focused on “what new ideas match our students”.  Instead of hollowing out initiatives, lets fill them with critical thinking connected the learning of our students.


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