Finally, the faculty room conversation you’ve been wishing for

They’re having way too much fun in The Faculty Room at Grant Wiggin’s Authentic Education site. The creator of Understanding by Design has a fascinating group blog underway. Every couple of weeks, Wiggins poses a big-tent question and a dozen regular bloggers are invited to offer commentary. Readers can add their thoughts (and do) on any of the entries. It’s quality content — in fact, it reminds me of many of our professional conversations in the Teacher Leaders Network, but all essayed up.

Guests drop by, too. In a recent discussion on the value of homework, Wiggins invited Alfie Kohn, author of The Homework Myth, to blog in response to some thinly veiled (she never actually names him) criticism from Dana Huff, a regular contributor who teaches English at the Weber School in Atlanta. Kohn offers a (good-) spirited response to Huff’s recounting of a story told by about a psychologist who spoke at a recent professional development day at Weber:

He said that someone had recently approached him to tell him about a speaker he had recently heard who claimed homework was an unnecessary component of education that only caused stress. This man, I gather, wanted the good doctor’s opinion about this speaker’s ideas. The good doctor said the speaker must be “on drugs.” He was joking of course, but I’m sure all of us in education circles know who this educational speaker had been.

Kohn’s comeback:

On the off-chance that I am indeed the educational speaker referred to in Dana Huff’s post, I’ve been invited to say a word in behalf of my own sobriety. Never a particular fan of mind-altering substances, I think it may be worth pointing out that the act of taking a position that seems to challenge the conventional wisdom is not prima facie evidence of a drug-induced state. Especially when the research overwhelmingly supports that counterintuitive position.

Before the debate ended, many other blog essayists and commenters had their say about homework.

The blog launched last November. Wiggins weighs in from time to time (he felt the need to add “more light” to the heated homework debate, for example), but for the most part he lets The Faculty Room’s mixed bag of bloggers fertilize the discussion. (Hey, it’s almost spring, and I’ve been reading seed catalogs.)

All in all, this is a great blogging idea, and who can argue with Wiggins’ vision for the project:

Through this forum we hope to create dynamic conversation among educators from all parts of the world and every corner of the profession about the essential questions of education. Ultimately, our mission is to clarify a vision for future schools and to close the gap between that vision and the present reality.

You can drop by and suggest topics for the biweekly discussions or just kibitz in the comment areas. If you know the work of Wiggins and his colleague Jay McTighe (e.g., backward curriculum design, the fascinating Big Ideas website, and the recent book Schooling by Design) you have some sense of the quality you’re likely to find here.

This is one faculty lounge teacher leaders won’t be tempted to avoid.

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