Garman & Holland 2015 Getting to the New Work of Teaching, Learning, and Supervision

Garman, N. & Holland, P. (2015). Getting to the new work of teaching, learning, and supervision: Are we finally at the quantum moment? In J. Glanz & S. J. Zepeda’s (Eds.), Supervision: New Perspectives for Theory and Practice, (pp. 43-62). Lanham, MA: Rowman & Littlefield.

Summary: In this chapter, the authors present a brief historical perspective about supervision and curriculum theory in relation to schools. They show us how the education field as arrived at our currently obsession with accountability. They argue that in order for educators to meet the demands of the twenty-first century, education will need to transition from a closed structure approach in teaching and learning to an open structure, and they outline the principles in both. Using quantum physics as an analogy, they discuss how our scientific and human understanding of the world we live in requires a movement away from an either/or approach to learning. They ask the reader to consider whether education is at the quantum moment when we can move away from the sole focus on a closed structure to consider the necessary inclusion of an open structure.


Thoughts and Quotes:

  • I love their argument for the freedom to learn principle and for the importance of personal agency in enacting the freedom to learn. They draw upon the work of Carl Rogers, Maxine Greene, and John Dewey for humanistic perspectives on teaching and learning.

    • “Their work brought us to a prevailing interest in the importance of personal agency, the notion that learners hold the power and responsibility for their own educational development. Along with other educators, we were urged to think beyond ‘delivery of services’ to the concept of ‘empowerment’ as the central stance of our supervisory practice” (p. 45).
  • I connected with their argument of curriculum development as being trapped in a closed system. As a scholar who works in and with schools daily, I see this happening – this is a reality.

    • “Classroom pedagogy was expected to begin with what was self-evident and to move in linear links to reinforce, establish, or prove what was already set and valued. Evaluation determined the only, predetermined learning that counted. If successful, the end/means plan could be valuable for the transmission of information, but not as a transformation of knowledge. It had developed into a mechanistic model that represented a tight control for predicting and dissemination knowledge within the curriculum” (p. 49).
  • The referenced William Pinar’s (1975) work Curriculum Theorizing: The Reconceptualists as an important text for helping them explain the dissonance they were experiencing in their teaching and their responses from students. It appeared that their students had two extreme responses – ones who loved their courses and were intellectually engaged, citing them as the most exciting experience and then there were others who were so frustrated that they hated their courses. Those students responded with anger. As I read this part, I again connected to their thinking and realized that I, too, tend to have similar responses from students, particularly in the beginning as compared to now. I think that’s because I’m a humanist in my teaching but I haven’t previously articulated that to students. I now have a better language for understanding my beliefs and personal theories and how those personal theories are translated to practice.
  • “In the culture of formal education, success is associated with helping students achieve the objectives of the teacher, and the ends/means curriculum is intended to provide a high degree of certainty for student achievement. The management system of the Tyler Rationale is primarily for the control of behavior and accountability (for both the teacher and the student) in order to achieve the intended outcomes” (p. 51).
  • When describing the nature of a closed system, they say, “Even though the conditions may never be fully realized, the mathematical laws, based on Newtonian mechanics, are based on a view of a world that is orderly and potentially discoverable – that is, linear, certain, and predictable. This scientific world view related to knowledge generating reflects the universe as a relatively closed system” (p. 52). To provide the alternative perspective, they state, “Because human biological processes (including the mind) also generate information, and because consciousness enables us to experiences those processes, the intuitive perceptions of the world as nonlinear and unfolding in time capture one of the most deep-seated properties of the universe. This scientific worldview reflects the nature of the universe (and considers a way we come to know it) as an open system” (p. 52).
  • “One difficulty we continue to experiences is that educators still think that the closed system is the only reality. It provides the ‘real’ understanding of structure. Structure as a verb has come to mean deliberate planning in order to control learning in the taken-for-granted closed curriculum system. It is tough to create the reality that the open system is actually another ‘structure’ of curriculum and not simply referred to as an ‘unstructured experience’ that many still name” (p. 53). I experience this tension as well, particularly with undergraduates who, I would argue, bring this perception to their teacher preparation as a result of their indoctrination into this mindset through years of schooling in a closed system. I know I did.
  • The authors draw upon Crease and Goldhaber’s (2014) text to talk about the quantum moment “…not as a single flashpoint, but rather as an emergent inquiry that uses a radically different set of laws to explore” (p. 54). They go on to summarize by saying, “In other words, both the closed and open structures provide seemingly disparate sets of scientific laws, yet both are vital in order to study the ways the universe works” (p. 54).
  • “And, although we are advocating that schools find ways to support both structures in their curricula, and to make public both systems in their mission, those who find themselves in situations where a dual system prevails can experience frustration from the ambiguities. (We are reminded that ambiguity is considered a significant condition for heightened learning in an open system)” (p. 55).
  • The Closed Strcture:

    • Assumes that “teaching, learning, and/or supervision can be systematically organized, based on predictable learning behaviors, implying that learning experiences can be organized in order to guarantee that a reasonable percentage of participants can achieve the predetermined outcomes,
    • (2) that the evaluation procedures can provide adequate evidence indicating to what extent the learner has achieved the given outcomes –generally, this is done by measuring the predictable results through quantitative data; and
    • (3) that the management system implicit in the agreement is primarily for the control of behavior and accountability (of all participants) in order to achieve the intended outcomes” (pp. 55-56).
  • The Open Structure:

    • Assumes that “learning events can be imagined in such a way that a reasonable number of participants, by involving themselves in the situation, can articulate the meaning they find as a result of their engagement and reflective inquiry about the significance of the events;
    • (2) that the discoveries and insights of the participants which are not controllable and predictable can be described, interpreted, and evaluated by the participants within the limits of the relationship;
    • (3) that a reasonable number of participants can become aware of their own consciousness as an important part of their learning; and
    • (4) that knowledge is unfolding in time in a manner that leads to ever new and unpredictable states; and
    • that new knowledge will be generated as a result of the dialogic engagement in the educative events” (p. 56).
  • The authors claim, “We are currently experiencing a massive amount of dysfunction in schools as the mandates of rigidly controlled learning processes are played out in the closed structure” (p. 56).
  • “However, in the open structure we emphasize that the educative involvements and the potential learning (including the opportunities from the teacher’s intent) are well articulated in the design or plan for the experience and there is continual monitoring through the involvements. It takes a massive amount of work because they haven’t been given a single set of objectives; we hear students say this is ‘unstructured.’ Our response is to remind them that ‘ indeed, it is a distinctly different kind of structure’” (pp. 56-57).
  • The authors conclude by asking if we are, in fact, at the quantum moment. They remind us of the litany of reform imperatives driven by outside “reformers” – “We hear armies of reformers, politicians, entrepreneurs, and policy specialists projective future economic and social needs for the next generation and beyond. The list of imperatives include : the rethinking of how schools work; the increased use of collaborative learning approaches; shifts to deeper learning; integrating technology; and a shift from students as consumers to students as creators” (p. 58).
  • They express caution, though, by saying, “Based on past reform efforts, however, we worry that educators will carry out the new work of teaching, learning, and supervision in the mindset of the old structure. We wonder whether educators can develop the conceptual as well as instrumental thinking of an open structure that is necessary for twenty-first-century demands” (p. 58).
  • Finally, they draw parallels between their vision and Minecraft – “Minecraft is considered an ‘open world’ game that has no specific goals for the player to accomplish, allowing for freedom as to how to play the game and to determine what constitute success. The point of the game is building things” (p. 59). They go on to add, “It is a superb example of the capacity of both children and adults to engage in experiences that require them to learn how to make decisions in order to be successful in emergen events that confront them. Perhaps most significant is that the landscape of game design represents the programs (laws) of both the open and closed structures. There are two realms of knowledge that are contradictory pictures of reality. Yet, they serve the world of digital literacy through games” (p. 59).