Models, Frames, and Narratives

17 Sep

For the next couple weeks we’re going to be looking at how writing assessments are understood in part based on models, frames, and narratives (generically, I’ll use Adler-Kassner and O’Neill’s term “frames” from this point on). Our readings for today pointing us to a number of frames that help us understand how assessments function (e.g., ecologies from Wardle and Roozen, generative practices from Condon, internetworks from Penrod, the value of the local from Huot, etc.). Next week we’ll look at similar frames for understanding digital technologies.

Today I’d like us to explore some of the most common frames around education and testing in our specific cultural context. Where do these frames come from? Who is invested in them? Why? What are the counter narratives?

I’ll provide an easy on about education writ large:

First, “Waiting for Superman,” a documentary that suggests a narrative that the problem with education is that teachers, because of strong unions, can’t be fired, and thus good students are disadvantaged by bad teaching. The solution: get rid of unions and “the bottom tier” of teachers; more standardized tests to determine who to fire and which schools to shut down; more charter schools.

Contrast this to a video released by teachers attempting to provide a counter-narrative to “Waiting for Superman.”

The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman

Battles such as these revolve more around who gets to frame the problems and provide the narrative far more than they are about the solutions, which are almost inevitable once you establish the frame.

Find other frames and narratives about education and testing and provide them as a “comment” to this post.

Final, we’ll employ Huot’s framework (pp. 87, 99) of procedures, purposes, and assumptions to think about how we might understand the assessment theory behind these frames.


Posted by on September 17, 2013 in Uncategorized


7 responses to “Models, Frames, and Narratives

  1. profkelp

    September 17, 2013 at 3:32 pm

    In “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”, school administration is a persecuting force; the movie implies that what you learn outside of school is more important and formative than what you learn in school. Ben Stein creates a teacher character that is mundane and almost irritatingly boring, which implies that school teaching is irrelevant.
    See link!:

    Sarah, Erin, and Kendall

  2. profkelp

    September 17, 2013 at 3:35 pm

    Senor Chang in Community is a teacher character “type” that is both insane and not qualified to teach:

    Erin, Sarah, and Kendall

  3. DB

    September 17, 2013 at 3:41 pm

    1. University professors teach subject matter that is specialized, irrelevant, and ultimately useless: underwater basket weaving (

    2. Knowledge is power (

    3. Writing cannot be taught (

    4. Talented, motivated autodidacts need not pursue formal education (Good Will Hunting)

    5. Book sense and common sense are two different things (

    6. Education is thought control (

  4. profkelp

    September 17, 2013 at 3:48 pm

    This article contains numerous myths; the foundational myth is that international rankings objectively tell us which countries have the best education systems. Some other ones: “students shouldn’t have too many exams or too much homework,” “standardized testing isn’t very valuable,” “smaller class sizes are better,” “broad guidelines (in terms of curriculum) are better,” et cetera:

    Sarah, Erin, Kendall

  5. brucebowlesjr

    September 17, 2013 at 3:51 pm

    Educational Cultural Myths:

    1. Teachers can be evaluated by student test scores to determine their effectiveness.

    2. Students receiving college credit in high school is an excellent idea from both a cost and educational standpoint.

    3. Good teachers willfully go to under-performing, inner-city schools and inspires students and finds his/herself.

    4. Family life has no influence on the problems of education–administrators and teachers are to blame for these problems. see the lack thereof in Waiting for Superman

    5. Economic logic works in education. (billionaires will save us all!) see The Death and Life of the Great American School System

    6. Added bonus! A game that tries to show how teaching operates! Don’t take it seriously, of course, but it’s interesting that someone tried to abstract teaching in the form of a game (to me, anyway… Jason… not Bruce). Like many games, this attempts to simulate something (teaching) with processes, and in the process makes an argument about how teaching works.

  6. jlh12f

    September 17, 2013 at 3:56 pm

    One of my longtime favorite manifestations of the Liberal Professor Myth:

    The myth that Parents Are Better Teachers, closely tied to some other favorite myths: Teachers Should Be Parents and Teachers vs. Parents

    the myth that Teachers are Anti-Religion:

  7. amypiotrowski

    September 17, 2013 at 3:59 pm

    Myths/Narratives about teaching:

    – The Hero Teacher: If teachers only cared enough about their students and gave them all of their time and attention, students would succeed. I cringe when my undergrads say they want to teach English because of the film “Freedom Writers.” It’s worth noting that Ms. Gruwell only taught high school for four years, then briefly at the local college, before starting her foundation. Trailer for the film:

    – Also, the Hero Teacher usually gets fired because of the evil education establishment. See “Mona List Smile”:

    – Also the Hero Teacher should keep inspiring students, even when sick with pneumonia. After all, teachers don’t have lives of their own and shouldn’t be so thoughtless that they care for their own well-being. See “The Ron Clark Story”:

    – The Hero Teacher don’t need no teacher education. TFA teachers with five weeks of training do just as well:

    – Technology to the Rescue. If we just buy lots of computers and tablets, students will perform better:

    – Education Consultants to the Rescue…With Jargon:

    – Teachers’ salaries and benefits are excessive: The mean teacher pension in Texas is $1,900 a month. The median teacher pension in Texas is $2,000 a month.


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