Friday, July 30, 2010

The Tower of Babel

In a wide ranging address earlier this week to an amazing team of educators, researchers, and administrators from Cornerstone Literacy, Dr. Yellin invoked the story of the Tower of Babel to discuss how the different professionals in students' lives need to find a common vocabulary to communicate with one another.

If you recall the bible story, it begins with people all speaking the same language, which enables them to build a tower so tall as to challenge the supremacy of the Lord. So, to limit the ability of the people to cooperate together in such a task, the Lord has them all speak a different language, impeding their ability to work cooperatively.

Let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech. (Genesis 11:7)

Dr. Yellin pointed out that a version of this story can be applied to communications between educational researchers, clinicians, and teachers. They all speak their own language, each limited by their unique vocabulary and approach in how they can share information that can help inform others who play a role in educating children. Researchers may develop new ways to teach but teachers may not have ready access to these new findings; likewise, researchers may not get effective feedback from teachers in the classroom who are implementing their innovations. Clinicians may assess children but teachers often do not see the report in full, nor do they have a chance to let the clinicians know how the student is progressing. In short, without a shared framework and vocabulary, the professionals working to help students succeed may not be able to maximize their effectiveness.
So, what is needed to get all these professionals on the same page? Dr. Yellin explained that what is required is a conceptual framework and vocabulary for a transdisciplinary conversation about learning, mental productivity, and specific brain activities. This would require task analysis of academic functions, linkage of these tasks to cognitive constructs, and the understanding of neurodevelopmental profiles by all the related professionals. The result would be the ability to understand one another and communicate for the benefit of all students.
Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do... (Genesis 11:6 )

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