If This Is the End of Average, What Comes Next?
By Daniel T. Willingham Jun 11, 2018
Todd Rose, the director of the Mind, Brain, and Education program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, has emerged as a central intellectual figure behind the movement. In particular, his 2016 book, “The End of Average,” is seen as an important justification for and guide to the personalization of learning.
what Rose argues against. He holds that our culture is obsessed with measuring and finding averages—averages of human ability and averages of the human body. Sometimes the average is held to be the ideal.
The jaggedness principle means that many of the attributes we care about are multi-faceted, not of a whole. For example, human ability is not one thing, so it doesn’t make sense to talk about someone as “smart” or “dumb.” That’s unidimensional. Someone might be very good with numbers, very bad with words, about average in using space, and gifted in using of visual imagery.
Since the 1930s, psychologists have debated whether intelligence is best characterized as one thing or many.
But most psychologists stopped playing this game in the 1990s. The resolution came through the work of John Carroll, who developed a third model in which abilities form a hierarchy. We can think of abilities as separate, but nested in higher-order abilities. Hence, there is a general, all-purpose intelligence, and it influences other abilities, so they are correlated. But the abilities nested within general intelligence are independent, so the correlations are modest. Thus, Rose’s jaggedness principle is certainly not new to psychology, and it’s incomplete.
The second (Context Principle) of Rose’s principles holds that personality traits don’t exist, and there’s a similar problem with this claim: Rose describes a concept with limited predictive power as having none at all. The most commonly accepted theory holds that personality can be described by variation on five dimensions
Rose’s third principle (pathways principle) suggests that there are multiple ways to reach a goal like walking or reading, and that there is not a fixed set of stages through which each of us passes.
Rose thinks students should earn credentials, not diplomas. In other words, a school would not certify that you’re “educated in computer science” but that you have specific knowledge and skills—that you can program games on handheld devices, for example. He think grades should be replaced by testaments of competency (my note: badges); the school affirms that you’ve mastered the skills and knowledge, period. Finally, Rose argues that students should have more flexibility in choosing their educational pathways.
more on personalized learning in this IMS blog