Critical Look at the Educational System

Dr. Howard Gardner takes a critical look at the educational system in the United States by identifying the objectives and evaluating the success of the educational system.  Through his findings, he identifies the issues within the schools across the country and offers four reforms to enhance learning in the educational system.  Are his ideas on education accurate?  Can his reforms be implemented and successful?  How can technology aid in Dr. Howard Garner’s reforms?

Critique of Dr. Gardner’s Ideas on Education

Dr. Howard Gardner has presented some valuable insight into the minds of students as well as into the effects of the educational system.  In his opinion, most schools have failed to be successful and unable to obtain their goals; while those schools that proclaim success still lack the ability to provide their students with deeper understanding.  Although I completely agree with his opinion, I disagree with his statement that the failures in school are a reflection of failures in society.  I am a firm believer that although some students may fail under the constraints of formal education, those same students may continue to learn and succeed with the aid of alternative learning provided throughout our society.  Dr. Gardner states that “Human beings have tremendous capacities to learn and develop, as can easily be seen if one watches a child actively exploring his environment during the first years of life.” (Gardner, 2004, 249)  I am completely in agreement with Dr. Gardner but question the cause of limiting a person’s capacity for learning as they mature.  What in human nature, society, or education prevents children from continuing to learn at the same capacity as their first year of life?  In my opinion, the structure of education places the constraints of students’ ability to learn.  This opinion is backed by Dr. Gardner who points out that “educators should exploit the cognitive and affective powers of the five-year-old mind (an energetic, imaginative, and integrating kind of learner) and attempt to keep it alive in all of us.” (Gardner, 2004, 250)  Unfortunately, “schools are subject to various constraints that make it difficult for them to serve diverse clientele and to undergo smooth changes.” (Gardner, 2004, 251)  I am in complete agreement and would label ‘state standards’ as one of those constraints preventing success in the educational system.  State standards force teachers to teach information to be regurgitated in testing and limits students the ability to develop inquiry-based thinking as well as a deeper understanding of the information.

Evaluation Dr. Gardner’s Proposed Reforms

Dr. Gardner proposes four reforms to assist in the improvement of the educational system.  The first deals with how students are assessed, the second is concerned with the quality of curriculum, the third addresses teacher practices in the classroom, and the final component is community support.  Although my opinions are somewhat mixed with Dr. Gardner’s critique of the educational system, my opinions are in complete agreement with Dr. Gardner’s educational reform.  Assessment is key to any program, including the educational system.  Standardized testing is a poor evaluation due to the fact that it is only measuring the student’s ability to regurgitate information.  Building portfolios as mentioned by Dr. Gardner is a much truer evaluation of students’ ability because it would allow students to problem-solve, use creativity, and have a deeper understanding of the information presented in class.  As stated by Dr. Gardner, “unless the accompanying curriculum is of quality, the assessment has no use.”  (Gardner, 2004, 254)  Both the second and third reforms dealing with curriculum and teachers are related to one another.  Although Dr. Gardner does not go into great detail about improving the quality of the curriculum, he does note that professional development is critical for teachers to improve the quality of teacher practices in the classroom.  I am a firm believer that professional development is necessary for teachers to continue to improve in their professions as well as introduce new ideas, information, and technology that may help teachers improve the quality of learning in their classrooms.  The fourth and final reform addresses the need for community support.  Dr. Gardner calls for the local communities to be active in the schools.  I think this is very important when motivating students for the future as well as introducing real-world applications for information taught in the classroom.

Recommendations for Dr. Gardner

Dr. Gardner has identified some very key factors in improving the educational system.  My only recommendation I would have for Dr. Gardner is to go into greater detail with his reforms by offering specific examples of how to apply the reforms.  My suggestions would include specific assessment types such as art portfolios, science projects, or PowerPoint presentations.  The quality of curriculum may be improved by changing the focus from regurgitated information to the development of problem-solving skills and inquiry-based thinking.  Community support can also be improved by offering internships and collaborations with other businesses, museums, art galleries, and other informal education facilities.

Recommendations for the Educational Establishment

When taking into account Dr. Gardner’s reforms, the greatest recommendation I have to offer is to develop a successful pipeline for students to be successful not only in their current grade level, but future grade levels — to motivate students to attend and succeed in college.  To develop a successful pipeline, schools must develop a successful program early in a child’s educational life.  To be successful, schools cannot educate students alone; informal educational centers, museums, and businesses must collaborate with schools to develop in-class curriculum, after-school activities, and hands-on experiences to reinforce and generate deeper understanding of information taught in the classroom.  Schools must also address the needs of all students; understanding that not all students learn the same nor can they be evaluated the same; thus assessments should be flexible enough to obtain truer results than the typical standardized testing currently in place.

The Role of Technology in the Future of Education

Dr. Gardner’s reforms can be enhanced by the use of technology in education.  When reevaluating assessment design, the integration of technology can assist in new and exciting ways to evaluate student progress; these technologies can include podcast production and PowerPoint presentations.  As Dr Gardner noted, an increased improvement in curriculum is critical and can be accomplished by integrating technology that provides alternative learning, reinforcement of information, deeper understanding of curriculum, and motivation for students.    Technology such as software, Internet, and interactive multimedia can provide alternative teaching techniques, access to information, help develop problem-solving skills in the classroom and encourage inquiry-based thinking.  Technology integration can also impact teacher practices in the classroom which was one of the other necessary reforms.  However, with all new applications, professional development focusing on technology integration will be key.  The final role of technology and perhaps the most important role is the ability to showcase students work on a much larger platform, thus increasing student motivation and pride in their academic accomplishments.

Conclusion

Dr. Gardner has a very objective and critical, but true view of the educational system.  He offers some great reform theories that may truly improve the success of students on the educational system.  As he identified, it is the responsibility of teachers, administrators, parents, and all other citizens in the community to reach out and assist in the reforms for there to be any great improvement.  In this Era of Technology, multimedia and technology can be a positive benefit to enhance Dr. Gardner’s reforms and generate even greater success in improving the educational system.

By Higher Power Training: Providing Instructional Design and Training Services since 2000

Reference

Gardner, H. (2004). The unschooled mind, tenth anniversary edition, pages 249. New York, NY: Basic Books.

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