Monday, June 9, 2008

can a classroom in this era of education ever be truely authentic?

Gee defines and affinity space as a space that meets/exceeds the 11 criteria on page 85-85. He talks about how people are authentically asking questions and constructing knowledge. How participants in an affinity space are generating new knowledge and rely on each other as resources. Gee then begins to discuss the intersection of this affinity space and the classroom. According to Gee's account on page 88-89, it seems that classrooms are failing to meet the 11 criteria with flying colors. I must say that I agree with Gee's diagnosis of the situation. This got me thinking about if in an era of education where high stakes testing and standards are the name of the game, can we ever have an authentic classroom of learners that participate in an affinity space? It seems to me that no matter how you want to wine and dine the curriculum that it always boils down the the fact that there are standards to meet and tests to be held accountable to (especially in a regents type class). I think that teachers, many times, tell themselves that they are allowing their students to engage in inquiry like activities and construct knowledge...but is it really authentic when the teacher has a goal in mind? I mean, isn't it just like coaching students to the point that you want them to be? It is just a different route with the same goal. I don't know, it seems a lot like the exercise where you "construct classroom rules together" at the beginning of the school year and the list that students come up with is basically everything that the teacher would have put on the list or rules anyways. It seems so contrived. thoughts?

1 comment:

Brittany Soper said...

I was thinking about that too. A main feature of an affinity space is that it is centered around a shared interest or goal. I doubt that the goal of "learning 11th grade biology" would be specific or engaging enough to build an affinity space from. Is it possible to build curricula around student interest and not tests? I think the worry is that it would be deep knowledge but only about certain things (not enough to be passing state tests). How can the teacher make students share the goal of each lesson in a way that is authentic and creates an affinity space? As Cassandra commented, this is still teachers structuring the material to present what is on a test, not what they or they students are truly interested in. I think a lot of the criteria would be useful in classrooms though, like encouraging both extensive and intensive knowledge, allowing for dispersed knowledge found in many places, allowing different kinds of participation and having flexible leadership.