Saturday, September 13, 2008

Upside Down Kindergarten

One of the crazy outcomes of having a feminist mother with a PhD in Education, is that while I still have no idea how to treat most carpet stains, Bloom's hiearchy of knowledge is firmly entrenched in my mind. Bloom's theory is that children acquire information in set stages: knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. You can imagine these six stages lined up in a pyramid. Children are supposed to have the longest "base" of knowledge. Meanwhile, children are supposed to use their "evalation" skills the least since that sits on the tip of the pryamid.

Imagine my shock to read that teaching theory for "talented & gifted" children is the exact opposite. The information pyramid is turned upside. Talented kids are supposed to spend the MOST time on evaluation skills and the least on knowledge.

That's a pretty radical theory. It's the opposite of most Kindergarten classrooms. Kindergarten, at least in my area, spends most of the day learning concert knowledge such as phonics, handwriting, or counting sequence. Almost no time is spent creating things, asking deep "why" questions, or simply daydreaming.

My own personal Abby Benjamin theory is that ALL children learn in an inverted pyramid. For example, my daughter Maria is 15 months old. She barely has any concrete knowledge. She spends her entire day in the evaluation stage of learning. She picks up a block, puts it into her mouth and takes it out. She's not mastering "knowledge" which is defined as acquisition of facts. She's making judgement decision like "does this taste good?" "is this comfortable in my hand?" "do I like this or not like this?"

My three year old has an interesting evaluation of the American Revolution. He's decided, without much context, that "I like the Redcoats." Where does this evulation come from? Does he like the red uniform over the blue of the Contential Army? I don't know. I do know that it is really, really fun for me to explore the facts of the Revolutionary War from an entirely different prospective --pro-British

You won't believe how much the content of the facts change when you approach history from the ""wrong side." My Tory son is going to acquire a different slant of knowedge about the Boston Tea Party than his older sister. Yet this is so neat. This is part of the individual fingerprint of learning.

My twin collorlary is that the "best practices" for gifted and talented students are actually best for all students. Our society made a distinction to radically change the content of education for a few "gifted" students. Those select few are the only ones worthy of being trusted to direct their own education. Society also recognizes that it would be an incredible "waste of potential" if the wrong fit in school curriculum causes a student to disconnect from his own innate sense of wonder. I think the tragety of an impaired and dulled intellect are far more common that we currently recognize.

For now, I'm happy to find my unschooling approach neatly translated into educational lingo on this site.