Friday, August 9, 2013

August 9: Abraham Fischler says that "The Student is the Class."

Please visit the FIRST blog post on

The Problem

At the present time, teachers are working hard but we are still not fulfilling the demands of our students or our society. Why not? The schools are set up with an agrarian calendar and teachers are responsible for teaching to a class as a unit. Time is fixed and the only variable is performance – some pass and others fail. And, if the persons who fail do not make up and achieve the proficiency that the test is measuring, they drift further and further behind. The consequences are numerous and punishing. How does this instill a love of learning? This approach does not take into account a truism: ‘all students can learn but they learn at different rates and have different preferential learning styles’.

Instead of asking the student to fit the administrative structure (i.e., the class and arbitrary time periods for learning subjects and achieving competencies), we must provide each student with the time and means to succeed. Rather than punish the student who learns more slowly than the arbitrarily chosen period, we must treat each student as the class.

We must find a way of doing this. Other industries have made similar changes* and it is now time for education to do the same.

*Take FedEx, who can tell you where any package is at any time. Look at banking, which is now available 24 hours a day through ATMs and you can go to almost any ATM to withdraw or deposit funds. Both industries invested in information and delivery systems to meet the needs of their clients rather than asking their clients to accommodate to a fixed structure. Now the automobile industry is enabling customers to order on demand rather than requiring them to accept whatever is available in the dealer’s lot. In the business world, however, there is competition that requires companies to adapt – education has not had this catalyst.

What is my vision and strategy for educational change?

I believe that we in education must make the investment to do the same for our clients, i.e., each student. What investment is needed?

There are three modes of instruction: 1) self-paced or CAI, 2) project or problem-solving and 3) discussion. Self-paced or CAI requires that each student have access to a computer and modem and access to the curriculum on a server on a 24/7 basis. Projects and problems should be relevant to students so they can relate to the given subject area.

For English and Math, we should implement CAI in the 1st grade (and continue thereafter). The reason English and Math are chosen is that these are the two cultural imperative languages. If you know these two languages and are motivated as a self-learner, you can teach yourself almost anything you want to learn. And, one of the goals of education is to create self-learners.

For all other subjects, the teacher can pose a project or problem that is relevant to the student. Once the problem is defined, the class can be broken down into groups of 4-5 students in order to research the solution to the problem. If complex, each of the groups may study an aspect of the problem. With these subjects, the student uses the computer as a research tool (after having learned to read). Students are taught to use search engines such as Google or Yahoo as well as the intranet made available by teachers gathering information relevant for the students.

Students working in a group learn cooperation, shared responsibility and communication (face-to-face as well as e-mail). Having produced a written solution to the problem utilizing the computer (power point) as a tool, they can then present to the class for discussion. They can also use email or a written report to other students as well as the teacher.

Arbitrary learning within fixed time periods would be eliminated, i.e., no 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc. grades. Instead, students would be grouped chronologically with materials appropriate to their learning level and style using the CAI approach for English and Math, and the project/problem/discussion modes for other subjects. The projects given to the students match the level of English and Math competencies and are related to the students (their interests and their lives). For example, in 3rd grade, how would you study the amount of water that a plant needs to grow? I would utilize the students’ Math knowledge (learned through CAI) for science learning. Likewise, rather than studying history through memorization and chronology, it can be studied through problems based on the immediate environment for younger children and more abstract concepts in later grades.

Dr. Fischler uses the phrase, "The Student Is the Class" to capture our attention.  

how can we change the procedures in the classroom to serve students?
What procedures are in place to make things easier for us as teachers?
Can we make time flexible for the student?
Can we make the working environment in the class similar to working in an office?

Here are posters to assist in this "variable time" environment.

Part of the challenge is to build in the students the awareness of this opportunity for them to take the initiative.

You can read Dr. Fischler's commentaries at and you can download his free ebook HERE

Fischler's posters            List of Quotations
Propellor to the moon (poster)
Time is a variable (posters)

Summary of Fischler's 7 points

Mottos plus "Rosenshine 17 points" sheet 

BONUS:  A poster adapted form an editorial in the Economist, recommended by Gordon Dryden, the entrepreneur-turned-education advocate

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