Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Classification Problems

This summer I'm back trying to find suitable experimental methods to prove/disprove Education-as-an-adaptive-group theory.  In that vein, some possible approaches involve trying to code individual orientations (small-group/individual vs. large-group/institutional).  There are a ton of problems with this class of approach.  Foundational, its far-removed from multi-level selection theory's ontology (MLS): MLS measures are based on fitness not orientation!

Here's an example that highlights some of practical problems with an orientational approach.  It comes from the New American School's large whole-school reform initiative of the late 90's.  It comes from a teacher in a lower-socioeconomic school who was part of a whole school reform design.

She stated that many [students] came from unstructured home environments and thus needed more orderly classroom experiences. 
[I]t would work probably better with a group of kids that are on grade level, that have a lot of self-control...If the come from a home where there is no structure, [and] they come into a classroom where there is no structure...that's the problem.  But I really feel, and I might be wrong, that this works with a different population much better than what it has worked with our students. 
Teachers at a CON [specific reform design type] school stated that their design units had to be "modified" to address their student's basic skill needs. (Berends, et. al. 2002, pp. 114)
So, does this represent a small-group orientation which is concerned about customizing/optimizing things for the contexts of a particular group - say the disadvantaged students in the class.  Or, does it represent a large-group orientation which is concerned about the hidden curriculum of institutionalized education - say student should learn the value of order and structure?

Obviously such dichotomous questions are ill-formed.  First off, intentions matter much less than behaviour.  Behaviour matters much less than fitness.  Short-term fitness matters much less than long-term fitness which incorporates anti-fragility concerns.


Berends, M., Bodilly, S., Kirby, S. (2002).  Facing the Challenges of Whole-School Reform: New American Schools After a Decade.  RAND, Santa Monica California.

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