Challenging Our Assumptions

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As educators, we’re not afraid to ask a lot of questions when we don’t know how to do something. But what happens to the questions when we discover how to do it? They stop, don’t they? If we think we already know the right way to do something, or worse, it’s the way we’ve always done it, how open are we to learning a better way or even a different way? We aren’t, are we?

We must continuously challenge our assumptions about what we actually think we know. It’s normal to find ourselves having a superficial understanding rather than the deep understanding we originally thought we had.

For instance…

If you infuse new academic standards into old systems…. will it work? Most schools do it all the time and fail.  New academic standards support deeper learning and require skills that include critical thinking and problem solving, effective communication, collaboration, learning to learn, and developing an academic mindset. Most current systems do not support such learning.  It’s time to think differently.

The focus of formative assessment is on decisions and not on data. Assessments become formative only when teachers use evidence to adapt teaching to meet student needs. Most educators think formative assessment is about checking for understanding and spend their energy monitoring what students’ know. It’s time to think differently.

Grades should reflect what students know and are able to do regarding academic standards.  Rubrics that include neatness, or extra points for bringing kleenex, or points off for no name are practices that must be re-examined.  It’s time to think differently.

Research has proven time and time again that inappropriate homework may produce little or no benefit—it may even decrease student achievement. Write the 10 spelling words 5 times each or write the definitions of the 15 science vocabulary words are examples of common practices still happening in many schools today.  Homework should be meaningful, purposeful, efficient, personalized, doable, and inviting.  It’s time to think differently.

Great leaders don’t spend time trying to change people. They spend their energy creating the conditions in which people want to change… but how many leaders do the opposite? It’s time to think differently.

Something to think about.


  1. Letetia said:

    This article is so timely, as the end of the school approaches as educators we should reflect and identify the assumptions we make about our students.

    March 13, 2016
    • sblankenship said:

      Thanks Letetia for taking the time to comment. Reflecting is extremely important and it’s just as important to think deeply about the things that we think are working. If we really want an honest answer about what is and what’s not working… ask the people who matter most, the people that are on the frontline, the people that our decisions effect the most… our students! Stay connected!

      March 13, 2016
  2. Angie said:

    I believe the article was referring to “our” assumptions (not our students’) that need to be challenged. What we choose to focus on and how we proceed tell a lot about where we stand: archaic or innovative ways of teaching….

    March 13, 2016
    • sblankenship said:

      Thanks Angie for commenting. Your are absolutely correct! We must continuously challenge what we think, what we do, and why we do it. To be quiet honest, the examples that I include are assumptions I have made at some point during my educational career. I continue to learn and think differently and I purposely put people around me that push my thinking. When it comes to education, we must continuously learn, adapt our pedagogy to how our students learn best, otherwise, we will become irrelevant. Stay connected!

      March 13, 2016

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