I just had a conversation with my 9-year old that made me think about the difference in how we learn as kids in school, and how we are required to work on group projects in grad school, and as a team in our workplaces.
It happened when I was trying to explain Twitter to my son. I told him about the people that I chose to follow - that most of them work in the same kind of adult learning field that I do, although many of them are more well-known. I told him that I followed them to see what they had to say about the kind of work that we do and to see if I could get ideas for making my practice better.
His response: "Isn't that cheating?"
Given that much of the discussion in the instructional design world lately has been on social learning and sharing, it was interesting that my son was being trained to look at knowledge sharing as some kind of wrong. Of course at nine, he only knows the basics of plagiarism, copying homework answers, and not looking at another student's paper during tests. He has little or no exposure to credit, copyright, or collaboration.
The exchange brought to mind immediately conversations and debates I have had about Ed Reform, testing, common standards, and competition in education, and the myriad ways that politics creeps into so many efforts to create learning environments; corporate or K-12. People who believe that high-stakes testing is valuable, insist that acheivement is an individual accomplishment. They seem to think that success occurs in a near vaccuum. Testing, to them, is about rank and competition, and a die-hard devotion to the idea of winners and losers; one school against another, one student against another, one teacher against another; education as a zero-sum game.
Now while measurement is important, how much of testing is really about acheiving anything, doing something with the information that we have, or building something for the future.
Most of those require the participation of other people. At work, much success depends on our ability to collaborate with others, to know when to share information and how to get information from other people or places. Decisions are almost always made in consultation with others; "How is this decision going to affect the team, the project, or the company as a whole? Who has the information I need to make a good decision? With whom do I need to work to overcome obstacles and manage change?"
In many workplaces, collaboration and teamwork are core competencies, and the guy who hoards his knowledge is seen as a problem. Yet, our kids are getting the opposite message from school.
Of course the same holds true of testing. As workplace learning moves rapidly away from measuring butts in seats and scores on multiple choice assessments, K-12 learning is heading increasingly, and almost exclusively, in the opposite direction. Backward, you might say.