Saturday, March 26, 2016

How Pearson plans to force student participation and hurt creativity

S. Krashen

Pearson (Luckin et. al., 2016) has announced that they are developing programs that will monitor students as they participate in group work, showing how well each student is participating (p. 27), using, for example "voice recognition (to identify who is doing and saying what in a team activity." (p.34). This is designed to make sure students are participating according to the programmers' ideas of what optimal participation is. 

This and other intrusions are designed to make sure students are focused on just the task in front them right now, and are participating in exactly the way the Pearson wants them to participate.  This strengthens an error nearly all schooling makes and makes true creative thinking and learning impossible.

Studies in creativity have revealed that "incubation" is a crucial aspect in the development of new ideas and understandings. After a period of intellectual struggling, of "wrestling" with a problem, progress, deeper understanding, often comes after a short period of intellectual rest, “an interval free from conscious thought” to allow the free working of the subconscious mind (Wallas, 1926, p. 95). 

The mathematician Poincare (1924) noted that when reaching a block in his work, after a "preliminary period of conscious work which also precedes all fruitful unconscious labor," he would get up from his desk and do something relatively mindless, such as putting more wood on the fire.  Returning to  his work only minutes later, the solution would often appear.

School work rarely allows this to happen.  Pearson's programs make sure incubation will never happen.

Luckin, R., Holmes, W., Griffiths, M. and Forcier, L. 2016. Intelligence Unleashed: An Argument for AI in Education. London: Pearson.
Poincare, H. 1924. Mathematical creation. Excerpts reprinted in Creativity, P.E. Vernon (Ed.). Middlesex, England: Penguin. pp. 77-88, 1970.
Wallas, G. 1926. The Art of Thought. Excerpts reprinted in Creativity, P.E. Vernon (Ed.). Middlesex, England: Penguin. pp. 91-97, 1970.


  1. THe latest thing being done in Las Vegas classrooms are Whole Brain Breaks, and some teachers utilize Gonoodle to interupt instruction or group activity, but NOT for incubation, but for, according to research, getting the cells firing up and active, rather than static, in the brain. Funny how we all march to some sort of drum.

  2. Be careful--next Pear$on will come up with a way to monitor and assess "incubation"--they are masters at co-opting authentic terms for nefarious purposes.

  3. There are always quiet and reflective students. I can't imagine the amount of stereotype threat that will shut down certain students as they are monitored for how much they say during a group work project. I struggle with how to reward (voluntary) oral participation, as it doesn't equate with how much language is being acquired. Guided back and forth partner dialogue works for certain purposes, but expecting young students to get over their socialized, cultural, and internal linguistic participation styles for a Pearson test-task makes no pedagogical sense.

  4. Once the students find out what is going on the sales of chewing gum will rise.