Is Arming Teachers a Good Idea?

On February 14, 2018, at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, 17 people were killed at the hands of Nikolas Cruz and his AR-15 style rifle. Although Donald Trump was not the first voice in the conversation on arming teachers to solve the problem of school shootings, his comments endorsing the NRA’s position on arming teachers following the February 14 shooting has given rise to widespread debate.

To anyone supporting arming teachers in schools as a reasonable and rational measure in preventing or mitigating mass shootings at schools, I challenge you to read this post (and the links…ALL of them) before continuing to respond to this conversation. When so many lives are at stake, how willing are you to listen carefully to perspectives and arguments that do not align with your own preexisting beliefs?

Placing the Burden

After the shooting rampage in Dallas in 2016, police chief David Brown said that overall, the police force is asked to take on too much, and too much responsibility is affecting their ability to do any aspect of their job well. Being overburdened and over-stressed does not lead to good job performance. Perhaps this is why law enforcement failed to respond to several early warning signs that Nikolas Cruz had plans to massacre his high school. This is a problem in our police forces, and we cannot do the same to teachers.

Teachers are already overburdened with responsibility. Is it seriously reasonable and rational to put even more responsibility on teachers’ plates when they’re already responsible for providing our children with a 21st century education (not to mention being underfunded in this endeavor to begin with)?

Firsthand Accounts

Arming Teachers? Guns + Schools: It Doesn't Add UpEven a variety of veterans think it’s a bad idea to have firearms in classrooms (see James Fallows’ article at The Atlantic and Matt Martin’s narrative at Charlotte Five). People who actually teach don’t think it’s a good idea. And mental health care professionals suggest that having firearms in the classroom likely wouldn’t decrease and could actually INCREASE the incidents of mass shootings in schools (link #6).

A Light Literature Review

So to those of you supporting firearms in classrooms, how do you respond to these narratives and arguments? (which I’ve briefly annotated for your convenience):

  1. Teaching is more than “teaching” (so how can we ask teachers to do even more and have a chance at being successful?):
    https://www.mcsweeneys.net/articles/excuse-me-while-i-teach-your-child-but-first-i-must
  2. Police weren’t meant to solve every societal problem [and neither are teachers]:
    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2016/07/11/grief-and-anger-continue-after-dallas-attacks-and-police-shootings-as-debate-rages-over-policing/?utm_term=.33c55f48b25f
  3. Personal narrative from a vet who reveals that you can never know how people will handle a live fire situation no matter how much training they have (if some military personnel with LOADS of training freeze in live fire situations, what can we expect of teachers?):
    https://www.charlottefive.com/arming-teachers/
  4. Personal narrative from a then-vet and now-teacher who challenges the notion of becoming a once-again infantryman in the classroom:
    https://www.theatlantic.com/notes/2018/02/a-veteran-on-the-need-to-control-civilian-arms/553709/?utm_source=fbb
  5. Personal narrative and argument from a college teacher, pointing to a variety of problems and valid concerns about having firearms in the classroom:
    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/posteverything/wp/2018/02/22/why-i-will-never-carry-a-gun-in-my-classroom/?utm_term=.527a8bd329ad
  6. From a psychological perspective, Peter Langman reveals how most school shooters—particularly psychopathic shooters—fully intend to either commit suicide after or be killed during or after the shooting (suggesting to me that arming teachers gives psychopaths the idea that they’ll more likely be killed which could actually INCREASE the number of school shootings rather than decrease): https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/keeping-kids-safe/200908/kill-and-die-suicide-and-school-shooters

Assessment and Evaluation Models Should Include Reflection

Assessment and Evaluation Models Should Include Reflection

Trends in Educational Technology, Journal #5

I believe that assessment is about more than merely providing a kind of currency-value to students’ learning—assessment and evaluation should also be used to help teachers and instruction designers assess and evaluate themselves and their own curriculum so that they can revise it. Formative and summative assessment are tools that I’m already familiar with, and since I became aware of these assessment methods during my time in English 270 back in 2012, I frequently use them as tools to tweak my curriculum on week-to-week, unit-to-unit, and course-to-course bases. Of course we need ways to assess and evaluate what our students are doing—we are subject to educational structures that demand an accounting of students’ learning, but if 100% of our evaluative focus is on something as slippery as “student performance of learning outcomes,” we miss critical opportunities to see that if students are failing curriculum, there may be problems with curriculum. To that end, Scriven’s (1991) definition of evaluation has given me something to think about.

Evaluation and assessment of instruction design and curriculum should take into consideration each piece of Scriven’s (1991) definition of evaluation, but I would extend that strategy to be even more reflective. Scriven (1991) defines evaluation as a “process of determining the merit, worth, and value of things” (p. 97). So in terms of curriculum design, we must figure out a set of learning objectives or outcomes and have a way to assess the degree to which learners are able to perform those objectives over time. What I particularly like about this model is that designer’s should think about the merit of those learning outcomes. Indeed, learning outcomes should be those things which have intrinsic ed-u-ca-tion, evaluation, assessment value within a given system. And in my own thinking, I believe that another important step in this process of designing and revising curriculum should be to constantly ask the following questions: Why do we value these learning outcomes or objectives? What is the nature of their merit? For example, Stufflebeam’s CIPP Evaluation Model calls for an evaluation of context, “the assessment of the environment in which an innovation or program will be used to determine the need and objectives for the innovation” (Johnson & Dick, 2014, p. 97). I would take that a step further and suggest that we must ask why that environment (context) has those particular needs. Concerning my post-structuralist analysis of these evaluation models, the same thing holds true for Rossi’s Five-Domain Evaluation model. The first dimension of that model is the needs assessment: “Is there a need for this type of program in this context?” but that question neglects an equally important question: “WHY does this context have this particular need to begin with, and is that need justified based on value systems that are of intrinsic value and benefit to everyone?” In other words, we should constantly seek to understand the underlying structures that attempt to justify the connection between a thing and that thing’s merit. This is especially crucial if we think about how those structures change over time or how the objects within those structures change over time.

Absolutely vital to the design process is Stufflebeam’s input process in the CIPP Evaluation Model. It calls for an accounting of all resources that are required to make a program’s goals attainable (Johnson & Dick, 2012, p. 98). Growing from my experience in having to teach the Early Start English program in summer 2014, this is definitely something I’ll keep in mind for the future. One of the reasons why I believe this program failed is because it failed to deliver on what was agreed upon during the program’s input process. During the input process, we were promised specific spaces and equipment, thus we designed our curriculum and it’s learning outcomes with those spaces and equipment as a key component thereof. When the university failed to deliver on that space and equipment, the curriculum could not adapt. Ultimately, if the input process fails, an entire program could also be destined to fail.


References

Johnson, R., & Dick, W. (2012). Evaluation in Instructional Design: A Comparison of  Evaluation Models. In R. Reiser & J. Dempsey (Eds.), Trends and issues in instructional design and technology (3rd ed.). Boston: Pearson.

Trends in Educational Technology, Journal #1

Things Before Definitions

My inner rhetorician keeps telling me that definitions come after things, after experience. We see instances of things, we come to a general sense as to their qualities, then we attempt to abstract a set of common qualities into a definition. In other words, definitions do not come first: things come first. So when it comes to defining “educational technology,” I honestly believe I’ve observed and experienced too few instances of “educational technology” to be able to arrive at a definition. But this isn’t an exercise in futility. This thinking allows me to do something that is crucial to my own pedagogy, and that’s to get learners to take inventory of their knowledges, attitudes, and assumptions about the topic they’re learning. The definition I came up with in class is as follows:

Any technology that has had, presently has, or has the potential to have an effect on literacy events or literacy moments between any permutation of teacher and student subjects, I would consider as technology that is educational technology. What I mean by any permutation of teacher/student subjects is, for example, teacher/teacher, teacher/student, and student/student exchanges, as well as literacy moments or events exchanged between a reader and a text or a reader and herself. This ranges from a pencil or a fountain pen to the printing press to overhead projectors, tablets, and Twitter.

During this activity, I found out that my assumption about “educational technology” primarily concerned instances of educational technologies—that is, specific pieces of technology that can be used for educational purposes. Though my attitude is certainly open to expanding that definition to include the following, my assumptions had not presently accounted for educational technology as a field of study involving theoretical practice—that is, development, design utilization, management, and evaluation of technologies in learning environments (http://www.aect.org/standards/knowledgebase.html).

The only problem on my radar thus far is the phrase I often see come up when talking about education, this business of “increasing student (or teacher) performance.” Technology is “educational technology,” by definition, if it helps to “increase student (or teacher) performance.” As a language lover (and critic), I’m left asking myself the not-so-obvious question of what we even mean by “student performance.” Exactly what constitutes student performance, and how do we quantify student performance? It’s a slippery phrase that I’m quite interested in deconstructing, and I hope this course will help me—in the context of educational technology—do just that.

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