What do we do when we disagree?

I read Grant’s post and find I disagree with him on a number of points. My question is: how do we handle diversity of perspectives and opinions on how to teach students a foreign language? This discussion came up some time ago when several persons kept tugging on list members to come around to their point of view. Do we need to engage every time we disagree with someone? Will people assume we agree if we don’t register disagreement? How far can we disagree and still see ourselves as colleagues?


  1. I think you’ve posed a very interesting question, Pat. I’m going to use my personal religious journey from Catholic to Reform Judaism to illustrate my point. Growing up as a Catholic, I was taught to obey the Bible, to not question it, as God is all-knowing. However, Jews believe that questioning the Torah is a mitzvah and is highly encouraged. Jews believe that it is this questioning that brings a stronger connection with God and His teachings.

    All teachers have valid points, but following any one belief system blindly doesn’t promote the very values we try to instill in our students. We want them to be curious, to stand up for what they believe in, but to also be open-minded to what others believe or have to say. I don’t think we can do that if we don’t question, disagree respectfully when we don’t agree, and agree enthusiastically when we do. That’s called passion and the moment anyone loses passion, the world is worse off.

  2. This is what I wrote in response to Grant’s post (whom I respect greatly, by the way).

    And I agree, Grant, that many of these ideas do lead to development of the skill, but I believe it is wrong to say that assessing these behaviors is in line with proficiency-based grading.

    Proficiency-based grading measures how well a student can DO whatever the discipline requires. For math, it’s using basic mathematical skills to analyze, break down, and solve a mathematical problem (among other things), for PE, it’s demonstrating skill at physical activities, for history, it’s demonstrating the cause and effects of historical events, etc. You get the idea.

    For languages, it’s how well they can speak, write, listen, and read in the second language. Although the skills that these rubrics may describe the path to get to those outcomes, they may vary from student to student and class to class. Assessing those micro skills (for lack of a better term) that add up to a larger skill, doesn’t tell us how WELL a student can DO language. Just because someone sits up straight, looks someone in the eye, clears off their desk, etc, doesn’t guarantee that they will be able to comprehend language and doesn’t tell us anything about their comprehension skills. Yes, it’s true that those who eliminate distraction, focus (look in the eye), etc, generally have a better chance at understanding, but it’s no guarantee and doing those things do not necessarily consistently correlate with comprehension. So they cannot be used to assess language skill. Period.

    Just like note-taking, folder organization, having a time and a place for homework, don’t guarantee or even correlate directly to any type of learning. Do we want to teach these skills? Of course. But do we want to assess these skills as proof of students being able to DO whatever it is that each subject requires of them? I don’t think that would be an accurate assessment. I can find examples in any school, in any class, with any teacher of students who DO all of these academic skills and yet are not successful in class.

    So again, to sum up my thinking. Yes, we want to help students to form habits that lead to success for many students, differentiate for those that typical habits are counterproductive, but only assess evidence of students being able to DO whatever each subject demands of them and for languages, that’s how well they can speak, write, and understand spoken and written language.

    Stepping off my pedestal now. 🙂

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