Tackling the Loss of Teacher Professional Memory
Creating a Continuum of Education Instead of Re-Inventing the Wheel
One of the most frustrating things about being a teacher was having to re-invent the wheel each and every year. Particularly when it came to knowledge about my students. Why does it take 2-3 months to really learn about each of my students again? Didn’t they just leave the classroom 10 weeks ago? And ask any parent, especially those of a child with an IEP, and you will hear the same complaint: Where is the knowledge about my child that teachers worked so hard to gain the year before?
Why does it take 2-3 months to really learn about each of my students again? Didn’t they just leave the classroom 10 weeks ago?
Why do I still meet with parents who tell me, “Every September I have to meet with the new teacher, show them my binder (folder, files, chart) and tell them about Sarah and her needs.”
Or, my favorite usually overheard in the teacher’s lounge, bathroom, or in-service meeting: “Has anyone had Johnny X? What did you DO with him last year?”
Well, technically if Johnny X is in the 7th grade, for example, at least 7 different teachers have had him.
The concept of knowledge management or organizational knowledge has been prevalent in the business sector for decades. Knowledge management is the process of creating, sharing, using and managing the knowledge and information of an organization. It refers to a multi-disciplinary approach to achieving organizational objectives by making the best use of knowledge. But this still does not exist in education. How it is that a child has been in school for 3, 5, even 10 years, and no one knows ‘what to do’ with him?
This is, of course, meaning:
What works for Johnny?
What does he like?
What is he good at?
What skills does he have
What practical strategies can I try?
What strategies work for children who exhibit similar behaviors, or struggles?
What does NOT work for him?’
Where is this information? Unfortunately, stuck in the brains of teachers past.
Inefficient knowledge management in education, or the loss of professional memory, is a tangible problem. And a profound one, given the everyday technology now available at our fingertips. And it is particularly relevant for special populations of students: those with special needs, those who are learning English as their second language, those who are far advanced beyond their peers, or those who have experienced significant trauma or emotional challenges. We know more about learning science, development psychology and neuro-diversity than we ever have before, but we don’t have an efficient system to share and capture this knowledge.
The lack of resources or tools to capture professional memory of teachers is costly- time, money, and ultimately academic progress. We see the same dilemma in healthcare as well; the lack of access to the latest research and knowledge of individual patient care that is lost over time costs money, time and unfortunately lives. As mentioned in this article, it is critical to build upon knowledge to improve patient care and delivery of care- or the continuum of care, as now referenced by the medical community.
This is similar for education- what about a continuum of education for our children? Schools could capture what they’ve learned from last year’s teachers, and what is being done in the therapist’s office, or the counselor’s office, and keep it all in one place, building upon each other’s expertise, creating transparency and consistency of education for every child. But instead, without quality anecdotes, qualitative and quantitative data, many teachers must re-invent the wheel every September.
Collaboration and building upon the knowledge base of the industry AND the professional memory of every child is crucial to improving our education system. And at Education Modified, we believe it begins with providing teachers the tools, and time, to contribute their expertise. One driving force behind this work is Rapid Teacher Research. A methodology in which teachers quickly rate and comment on their pedagogical strategies applied to a particular student. This contribution of professional memory is for the sake of the student, teachers, and parents, NOT just for the sake of compliance. For the sake of improved pedagogy, and for the sake of increased transparency and collaboration, this process helps to not only maintain knowledge about a student, but build upon it from year to year.
I’d love to hear your thoughts, reactions, or stories. Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
CEO and Co-Founder