Ask the kids
As teachers, we spend a good portion of our day asking kids questions and getting answers and evaluating the answers. It's been suggested by many that we're asking the wrong questions in trying to transform education, and that may be so. But perhaps we're also asking the wrong people.
We hear again and again that teachers are on the front lines of teaching (really, America, can we say anything without a war allusion?) and in spite of that, are being left out of the important decisions being made. We have been. I'll not argue that here. What I will argue is this idea of who is really on the front lines, because if we take that metaphor and break it down to its most basic idea, it's not the teachers. It's the students.
And yes we still should be asking the people on the front lines how to fix things.
First off, we must dispose of the military allusion because an ideal system of learning will not run like the military (though so many are run in just that way now-a-days). It will run like a system of learning, won't it? The most important person in a classroom, in spite of political rhetoric, is not the teacher.
It is the learner.
Once we make the learner the top priority in the classroom (singular learner, not plural learners, as in teaching an individual within a whole class), we'll see exactly how misguided so much of what we do and say really is. We will start planning lessons not based on what's easiest for us to evaluate, but on what allows the easiest access to learning. We'll consider what each individual student needs, not what the class needs, and, when that happens, we'll raise the level of learning that happens in our class.
No. I don't have the solution to how we do this. What I do know is that many of us in education are asking the wrong questions. I'd like to see us start asking the right ones. Only then will the solution arise.