Monday, September 04, 2006


This is just a note to ask if any teachers out there feel that 'professionalism' obscures a lot of common sense. I'm just starting out, but so much of the jargon reminds me of the sort of thing I abhorred in journals in graduate school, where the adoption of a hip vocabulary allows anyone to sound like a technically proficient specialist. Often, theorese (the language of theory) can be broken down in simple, almost laughably common ideas that are made to seem larger than life, and just as often the proponents of a given theory pretend that talking about the same old things with new terms is a revolution.

I don't think educationese (I thought I'd just coined that!) goes that far--i.e., I don't think it's consciously elitist, just consciously 'professional'--, but it is obscure.

For example, I've been reading in teacher's manuals and in lesson plan guidelines that I need to be sure I build 'formative and summative assessment' into each lesson.

I diligently sought out the precise meaning of this precise phrase that gets bandied about in education circles. It must be very important to have been codified and to be constantly repeated, I thought.

But it turns out that this is just a fancy way of saying something I had already planned to do: pay attention to how the lesson's going, then try to get some feedback at the end to see that it worked. The former is encoded as 'formative assessment' and the latter as 'summative.'

Did I need to be told to do that, and did I need to be told in cold, lifeless jargon?

I'm reminded now of Richard A. Lanham's little book, Revising Prose. He called this 'the Official Style.' I don't think it's even suited to the office.


David said...

Jargon is essentially a system designed by a group of people to exclude others ... it's a way of saying "I know something you don't know" when, in fact, you probably do know it, with a rather more clear definition. Education is possibly the worst offender -- in our school board, we have recently been forced to use 'official comments' on report cards which, of course, are written in educationese and most parents have no idea what it means. Heck, I don't know what it means half the time.

Personally, I think educators should concentrate first on getting spelling and grammar correct ... then they can start thinking about thinking up jargon.

Chuck Jones said...

Your post reminded my of the Postmoder Essay Generator at:
Eash time you refrsh the page to produce yet another essay.

krateros said...

Strictly speaking, finding out how things have gone at the end of the lesson isn't part of summative assessment. I suppose it could be, if you had a formal test; but, even so, summative assessment is really in the nature of separate assessment exercises or tests, usually (although not always) in order to provide to pupils and parents (and the school) a summary of the pupil's capability.

So, although I agree that there's a lot of jargon that could easily be cut out, I would suggest that the distinction between summative and formative assessment is a bit more cut and dried than you suggest.

Coke said...

O Dennis, please don't even get me started with my fierce dislike for the state of modern education theory. My thumos might explode.