University of Nebraska Lincoln
of control and supervision are ubiquitous in education.How
much supervision of instruction is necessary?Who
decides?How does discipline contribute
to student learning?How much authority
do teachers have?Who should make
decisions about curricular content?What
is the parental role and how much influence should the parent have?How
do teachers and administrators relate to each other.Issues
of control affect every school building and every classroom and every personnel
relationship at one point or another.This
case is designed to help groups of educators identify issues where control
and evaluation and assessment loom as education moves along at a rapid
pace into the 21st century.The
case is designed to be interactive and done in groups.
This is a descriptive case of a different sort of school. It is a fictional American school in the year 2050. There is, of course, a real danger in imagining what schools will be like well into the next century. Nonetheless, in the time period around a millennia shift, such guesses about the future are to be expected. The features of this futuristic school are outlined below. The case is kept intentionally general in order to facilitate discussion. As in any such case, you may have many questions about specifics. In this case the need for specific detail is less important than the educational innovations that appear in this school. At the conclusion of this case there are questions to which you may wish to respond and a few suggested readings that will add to an understanding of the case.
The Case of Panopticon School
Panopticon School, a 10?12 high school, is located in a medium sized mid-western city in the United States. Middle income families, predominantly white but with a healthy mix of racial diversity, send students to this school. For the most part, families have aspirations for their children and expect them to continue their education after graduation from Panopticon. A nearby land-grant university is the higher education destination for many students. A community college system that offers transfer credit programs is also an attractive choice for many graduates. A small number of the very best students migrate to other higher education institutions in the country. A few attend the technical university recently chartered by EnCom Corporation as a degree granting four year college.
As the public educational system survived frequent attempts to open up education to private providers through tuition remission and voucher proposals, the realization that education plays a vital role in the strength of the nation’s economy led to an increased federal role.The governance of the local school was gradually removed from the direct authority of locally elected boards of education.Professional educators, certified and endorsed by national boards in various fields of education, now operate the schools and answer directly to state authorities.The state oversees curriculum content and review and hires teachers, placing these individuals in schools according to the needs of the state.A state wide parent’s advisory association exerts significant political influence on broad policy issues.Students and parents are able to apply for enrollment to any school in the state they wish to attend but must satisfy an option enrollment board that their reasons for moving from their home district are educationally sound.
The average class size in Panopticon is about ten students per class. There are 250 students in the three grades. It is considered a model program and educators from the region make frequent visits to Panopticon. Many of Panopticon’s programs are considered innovative. For example, students are not segregated according to chronological age and grade level. Rather, they are grouped and organized according to their logical reasoning and problem solving skills. Some of the predictions of a book from the 1990s called The Bell Curve have come to pass and it has become far more common in schools to group children by their levels of cognitive ability.
The primary subjects are reading, mathematics, natural sciences, logical reasoning, computer science, social sciences, languages, multicultural education, information processing, and health education. In Panopticon, students are placed in-groups with such names as Neptune, Mars, Pluto, Andromeda, and Venus. Competition between groups is used by the teachers as a motivational tool and the level of competition is quite keen. There is a clear emphasis on building group identity and cohesiveness. A visitor to Panopticon will notice in the lobby a large chart that displays the relative standings for the different groups in the annual competitions. A trophy case is on display that identifies the winners of various competitions in academic areas. In addition to bragging rights within the school, students on the winning team receive a monitory award for the top place. There are twenty?five groups. Faculty members are assigned to facilitate these groups. Both students and faculty are assigned to these groups randomly. Once assigned, they can only change by petitioning a panel of administrators and students established to hear such requests. Incidently, this school offers no inter?mural athletic program; students who participate in sports do so on local club teams sponsored by private athletic associations.
Principles of self regulated learning guide much of what takes place in the school. All students develop at entrance an individual education plan. This plan orients students and is reviewed periodically. Since much of the instruction is self-paced, this plan provides many with a necessary organizational framework.Each student and parent and teacher and administrator has access to the plan which can be easily obtained from the school’s large server with a password.Students and parents are encouraged to refer to this plan frequently and it serves as a check point for all major decisions students and parents and teachers make about important decisions.
Panopticon has a few special education students but only in the area of speech/language deficits. These students are provided with specialized computer assisted instruction in their diagnosed deficit areas.Twice a month, a special education instructor logs into their computer files and checks their progress.There are no labeled behaviorally disordered children in this school although school staff deal with a group of adolescents typical in all ways.
The architecture of the school will be the first thing you would notice. Panopticon is a high tech school and its appearance supports this claim. It is a glass building, circular in design with floor to ceiling windows on all sides. Internally there are free standing walled cubes that house restrooms and storage facilities. Otherwise, all walls are transparent. There is free vision throughout the building from a central tower that rises in the middle of the structure. This wasdone intentionally as research done between 2000 and 2020 found that such structures offered a powerful remedy to both discipline problems and off task learning behaviors. You may wish to read what Astor, Meyer and Behre (1999) discovered about the physical layout of schools.Administrators and teachers watcheverything that goes on. Additionally, parents can observe their children at work without being intrusive. In fact, a recent state law requires that all parents spend five hours each academic year having in?school contact with each school?aged child. Panopticon’s unique design facilitates this parental obligation.
Administrative offices are located in the glass tower and permit wide visual access to every level of the building.When administrators want privacy, they merely activate an electric device that makes their glass walls opaque and prevent those outside from viewing the administrators at work.Administrators can still see out into the building, however.
Panopticon is a highly technological school in other ways.Students do all of their work on the school’s networked computer system.Each student has a wireless personal computer that he or she can take home and that plugs into a networked panel at their work station.The following are some of the main features of this technological work station:
1)Ethernet access to the web;
2)Individualized word processing software adapted to the developmental level of the student;
3)A statistical package for data analysis;
4)An interactive link to the University and City libraries;
5)A Parental Access System (PAS) that provides for two way audio and visual communication between the students PC and a school provided wireless computer in the student’s home;
6)A direct link to the state’s Writing Exchange Program (WEP) in which students in schools across the state go through a step by step series of writing projects designed to educate all students through writing exchanges about the cultural diversity of the state;
7)A video editing program that allows students to easily produce video documentation;
8)See you, see me technology that allows students to transmit and receive visual images of others;
9)A central data collection program (CDC) that allows for online data collection of student activity, recording and storing all created files for teacher and administrator assessment;
10)An electronic portfolio or folder that stores all electronic documents that students and teachers wish to keep to demonstrate student progress.
Teachers monitor the work and progress of students.Curricular content is given to students mainly through computer assisted instruction and is aligned to measurable objectives.Students progress through a series of online demonstrations of mastery.These objectives are tied to the students IEP and because of the lack of direct teacher control, the IEP serves as the guide of the student’s behavior and performance.Should students engage in any off-task behavior, i.e. that which is beyond the scope of their IEP, for any length of time, a warning note will be generated by their computer program.If the behavior continues, an alert is sent to the supervising teacher of that period.When a student completes a unit of curricular work, four entries are automatically made to chart that progress: 1) into the student’s own performance file; 2) into the school’s CDC; 3) into the teacher’s file on that student; and 4) into the parents file on his or her child.
Included with the simple notation about work completed, an APGAR score is reported.This is a ratio of Expected or Predicted Growth to actual growth.Developed by a national team of educational psychologists, the APGAR ratio has become widely used to evaluate student progress.As a counseling tool, the APGAR has taken the guesswork and mystery out of the determination of whether or not a student is working up to his or her ability.Expected or predicted growth is measured as a variable that is constructed through a combination of psychological and genetic testing.The levels of attainment that each student should achieve at precise points in their learning process can be calculated.When students fail to progress as they should, their APGAR score will indicate this.The APGAR was invented by Dr. Jeremy
Bentham of Stanford University, long known as a leading institution in the field of educational measurement.
While the system is well organized to monitor student progress, these are adolescent students after all.Thus, there are times when inappropriate behavior escalates to the point where the school can no longer tolerate the student.Such students attend behavior modification panels conducted by trained school administrators.If the problems persist, pharmaceutical intervention will be utilized.If the student remains unresponsive, placement in a state residential facility occurs.
Parental support, as mentioned earlier, is important.Each teacher and parent can communicate electronically via the network.Furthermore, parents are able to use the interactive visual capacity of the system to satisfy the state’s parental observation requirement.
Teachers also benefit from the technology of this school.Teaching has become a highly rationalized and scientific activity.Years of research establishing “best practice” has led to direct instruction as automated and computer assisted.With rare exceptions, students amass content knowledge through computer assisted instruction and self paced learning. Teachers spend most of their time assessing and evaluating and providing feedback to students.This is done in a variety of ways.Each student meets with a teacher for an hour each week and receives feedback on their progress as well as suggestions for improvement.
As with teachers, so to with administrators.There are no principals any more.Research between 2001 and 2015 was able to demonstrate that in effective schools the concept of leadership density contributed more to student achievement than the actions of a principal who was a strong instructional leader.Thus, schools gradually began redefining the role of the principal into that of a team member and supporter of the instructional staff.The term now in vogue is that of Instructional Organizer and means to imply this new understanding.The Instructional Organizer is still responsible for assessing the impact of behavior on student progress and thus is charged with monitoring all student behavior.The architecture of Panopticon, as indicated earlier, facilitates this function.
The district’s superintendent carries out the evaluation of teachers and staff, a process that is now heavily dependent upon assessing the relationship of student progress to teacher monitoring activities.The superintendent has complete records on each student and has well developed software that indicates whether the students assigned to a given teacher are progressing as predicted by their APGAR scores.
There are elements of Panopticon that have already come to pass.There are elements of the case that may come to pass.Arrange yourself in groups and identify those elements of the case that you would like to see become part of the landscape of public education.Identify as well those elements that you think would be destructive of public education as you believe it should evolve over the next fifty years.
Questions to ponder:
1)Should high school learning become individualized?
2)Should surveillance be a significant part of public high school education?
3)Should technology be used to control or to liberate and if the latter, what limits would you impose if any?
4)What is the role of the teacher as technology makes it far easier to deliver content via electronic means directly to students?
Astor, R.A., Meyer, H., & Behre, W.(1999).Unowned places and times: Maps and interviews about violence in high schools.American Educational Research Journal.36, n1, 3-42.
Bentham, J. (1962). The works of Jeremy Bentham (J. Bowring, ed.). New York: Russell and Russell.
Foucault, M. (1979). Discipline & Punishment: The birth of the prison. New York: Vintage Books.
Levy, Michael. (1995). Electronic Monitoring in the Workplace: Power Through the Panopticon.http://bliss.berkeley.edu/impact/students/mike/mike_paper.html
Lyon, David.(1994).The electronic eye: The rise of surveillance society.Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.
Orwell, George. (1969)1984.New York: Harcourt Brace
Zuboff, Shoshana.(1984).In the age of the smart machine: The future of work and power.New York: Basic Books.
By David Enberg
In 1791, English philosopher Jeremy Bentham proposed an architectural innovation designed to lead to safe, humane prisons. He envisioned a prison space constructed as a circular array of inward-pointing cells. Solid walls between the cells would prevent any communication between prisoners, and a small window in the back of the cell would let in light to illuminate the contents. At the center of the ring of cells, Bentham placed an observation tower with special shutters to prevent the prisoners from seeing the guards. This “all-seeing place,” or panopticon, was designed to provide complete observation of every prisoner.
Bentham’s central goal of the panopticon was control through both isolation and the possibility of constant surveilance. A prisoner will constrain his own behavior with the knowledge that some guard may be observing every action, regardless whether anyone is watching at a given moment. Bentham found this Utilitarian ideal of oppressive self-regulation to be appealing in many other social settings, including schools, hospitals, and poor houses, although he achieved only limited success in promoting the idea during his lifetime.
Michel Foucault seized on this idea of a controlling space and applied it as a metaphor for the oppressive use of information in a modern disciplinary society. In Discipline and Punish, Foucault observed that control no longer requires physical domination over the body, but can be achieved through isolation and the constant possibility of observation.
In modern society, our spaces are organized “like so many cages, so many small theatres, in which each actor is alone, perfectly individualized and constantly visible” (Foucault, 1979). We are seen without seeing our controllers—information is available on us without any communication. Foucault realized that oppression in the information age is no longer about physical domination and control, but rather the potential for complete knowledge and observation. “Without any physical instrument other than architecture and geometry, [the Panopticon] acts directly on individuals; it gives ‘power of mind over mind.”
(Foucault, 1979) Physical intimidation is hardly even relevant in an information society when people need to regulate their own behavior to escape the constant threat of detection.
idea has since become the darling of postmodern cyber-libertarians, who
see the oppressive observation of corporate and governmental organizations
as the fulfillment of Foucault’s vision. The “all-seeing” comes in the
form of literal observation through cameras in public spaces and electronic
monitoring of workers, but it also has a more figurative element in the
data-monitoring of credit agencies and insurance companies. Their view
is that a society is being constructed where all behavior will be sharply
regulated through the fear of theoretical observation by some oppressive