Monday, November 21, 2011

Education: Performance Failure Conditioning - What Is It?

Over 100 years ago, a Russian scientist by the name of Ivan Pavlov published the results of his work. What he termed "condition reflex" was the first model of learning - Classical Conditioning. So what does this have to do with education? A lot!

Since that point in time, numerous other researches have continued their investigation on how individuals learn from Piaget to Bloom to Krathwohl just to mention a few. With all of this documented learning research during the last 50 years, why are we still not achieving the measurable performance success that we know is possible?

Possibly, through intentional and unintentional actions, an old malady for lack of a better word has gained additional ground. I have named this Performance Failure Conditioning. During the last 20 plus years, I have been observing this disorder and have come to realize the enormous detrimental affects upon our society.

So what is performance failure conditioning? Simply speaking, individual performance is conditioned to fail because known obstacles are not removed or are intentionally placed in the path to performance success.

Within education, performance failure conditioning has become rampant. During my first education course over 15 years ago, the professor made the following statement: "Over 90% of you will teach as you were taught in spite of what you learn here." Those words haunted me because even though I was a good student, I had learned early in my K-12 educational experience to work around poor teachers. And after reflecting about the total $25,000 plus college investment for a Bachelor's Degree in Education, those words haunted me and continue to do so even today. I became aware very early on how conditioning played an important part of my professional development and day to day living experiences.

Another example centers around training teachers. Incoming teacher performance is conditioned to fail because teachers not trained to overcome the number one obstacle that prevents engaged learning from happening - attitudes. I have surveyed over 1,000 teachers the last 5 years and have learned that students' attitudes are the major obstacle in creating an engaged learning environment. Redeveloping attitudes is not part of the elementary, middle school or high school college teaching curriculums. Earning my teaching degree later in life, I can also personally attest to this fact. Since it is not part of the training, then these new incoming teachers have indeed been conditioned to fail.

Also, in many school systems, there continues to be unqualified teachers who are practicing within the classroom. Their lack of instructional knowledge and certification definitely affects the performance of their students. Their behaviors are conditioning the students to fail. Student achievement within these dysfunctional classrooms is one of the worst examples of performance failure conditioning.

Performance failure conditioning is not new. This disorder has been around for many years. However in today's world where every moment within the classroom must be one of high performance, performance failure conditioning must be eliminated.

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