The trend of standardized testing being used to hold schools and students accountable is bad. This forces many schools away from the best practice of finding what's important to the student and using that as a means of teaching things they need to learn. NCLB leaves many special education students behind because it sets standards that they must achieve despite the fact that some will never be able to achieve them.
I have to say that having spent 9 years in a school with performance-related bonuses, this trend was positive and did focus teachers to meet objectives and strive for success in a way I have not seen in my three subsequent positions. I taught the range of abilities and our targets were negotiated then rewarded when met. The school became the top performing comprehensive in the UK.
I think any trend which is absorbed wholesale as the 'only' way to do something is dangerous. I have worked through such trends as phonics-only reading, ITA, restorative justice, etc, etc. All had there value, but no idea is a panacea for all.
I agree with Mshurn, to a great extent, but would add one more strategy that is currently proving beneficial: Project-Based Learning. PBL integrates the positives of cooperative learning and differentiated instruction. It gives students the chance to exhibit their unique learning style while providing them with real-world and meaningful tasks. Plus, it demands that teachers and students alike integrate technology into their teaching and learning. PBL isn't just some "latest greatest" strategy -- it's something that will serve us well now and in years to come as well.
Generally speaking, an educational trend which asks students to think less is not going to benefit students or education. Specifically, and looking back, I think of whole language learning as a spectacular failure and the cause of countless poor, ineffective, and/or disinterested readers.
Two beneficial trends in education come to mind, the growing acceptance of cooperative learning as an instructional method and the increased integration of technology in the classroom. Cooperative learning is not to be confused with "group work," which too often materialized as two students working, one writing notes, one sleeping, and all earning credit. Structured cooperative learning activities define specific roles for each member of a team, require active participation, and strengthen students' abilities to master content and learn to work with others to accomplish tasks within a limited period of time. These are skills much in demand in the "real world."
Employing technology effectively in lesson planning moves students beyond the confines of the classroom and engages their interests by speaking to them in their own "language." Various technologies add sound and graphics to instruction and also create "hands-on" activities, thus appealing to different learning styles.
One trend that is clearly not beneficial is focusing exclusively on teacher accountability in addressing failure in the classroom. This eliminates discussion of and solutions for many very real and very serious impediments to student learning. Recently, two especially counterproductive ideas have been pushed by some in the matter of student learning and teacher accountability: that class size and teachers' experience in the classroom are of no significance.
Research suggests that an effective teacher is, in fact, the most critical component in students' learning, but it also suggests that talented experienced teachers are more effective than talented inexperienced teachers. Huge class sizes no doubt ease the financial burdens of school districts, but they also impede the effectiveness of even the best teachers. To sum up, the most detrimental current trend in education is politicizing it; political agendas do not solve problems in education.
Here's a short answer: the ones that work are beneficial. The ones that do not work are not beneficial. One thing that determines whether or not the trend works is if the governing body which forced it upon the education world in the first place allotted enough money to fund the plan.
For the most part, I think that the advance of technology has had a beneficial effect on education. I have a Promethean Board in my room, and by creating interactive flipcharts, I am able to involve students in the learning process who normally would not be interested. Kinesthetic learners, especially, do better when they can get out of their seats and use the touch-screen technology.
Similarly, with new grading programs being made available at a rapid rate, my communication with parents has increased and is more meaningful. I can efficiently send home grade reports along with a list of upcoming assignments each week, and this has improved most of my students' progress.
In regards to the trends in teacher pay, I really don't know that teacher pay has that much to do with benefiting or hurting education. Quality teachers don't go into or stay in education for the pay rate. I'm not arguing that teachers shouldn't be paid fairly, I just don't think that merit pay or any of the other pay-scale trends will have much to do with student learning.
In response to #1, every study that has looked into merit pay has found that it has no positive impact. Sadly, the only measure by which merit seems to be measured in this approach has been high stakes testing, which #1 has mentioned is harmful.
I've taken the time to find a collated list of these studies for anyone interested in pursuing the subject further.
Trends that have had a positive impact on my teaching and that I think would have a positive impact on others are the rise of professional learning communities as well as "Understanding By Design" lesson planning.
One trend that has potential benefit is the increase in attention to mastery learning. The problem, of course, is what defines mastery? How do you identify which specific sub-skills are a problem that could be holding a student back from mastery? What do you do when a portion of the class has met the determination of mastery and the rest haven't? Like most trends -- nothing is clear-cut.
I am seeing the beginnings of a trend away from high stakes standardized testing as the sole means of measuring the performance of a student or a school, although this is probably more because of our budget crisis than any wake up call on the part of state and national governments.
Unfortunately, so many more trends are in the negative at this point. More pay cuts and layoffs for teachers seem inevitable in the next six months. The assault on collective bargaining rights, thinly veiled as some sort of attempt to balance state budgets, is widening to more states. Over the longer term, people are less likely to become educators, and the talent pool we have to draw from is shrinking. Can't say I really blame them, but how does anyone expect education to improve if there are few intrinsic or extrinsic rewards left to pursue in such a career?
I agree with #4, and I think this is a definite beneficial trend that we can point to as we think about how education is improving and changing. Certainly when I was taught at school, there was little recognition of differentiation apart from separating students into classes of similar abilities, but now phrases such as "teach to each" and allowing students to work at their own pace are very predominant in teaching.
I think a definite negative trend is the focus on exams and league tables which are causing teachers to have to teach to prepare their students for tests and water down the process of education.
A trend in education that is beneficial is differentiating instruction. Studies prove that not everyone learns the same way. Therefore, by approaching a topic using different learning styles, this may help more students become successful. A trend that is not beneficial is the assumption that a new teacher can bring more to the table, than a seasoned professional. Whatever happened to age brings wisdom and experience? Would you rather have a medical student operate on you or an experienced surgeon?
A new law proposed and sponsored by Florida Governor Rick Scott ends the tenure system earned by teachers with three years experience beginning in 2011. Scott has also signed into law a bill that requires all teachers (and state employees) to contribute 5% of their salary into the state requirement system. Scott has also proposed multi-million dollar cuts to the state's education system, and has now proposed that all teachers (and state employees) take a random drug test every three months. I'm sure such laws will make many aspiring teachers to think twice before taking a teaching position in Florida. File this under NOT BENEFICIAL to public school education--and teachers in particular.
I unfortunately think the overwhelming majority of trends in education are not beneficial. I'm speaking of everything from scripted curriculum, eliminating tenure (due process rights), increasing high stakes testing pressures, turn around schools, closing 'failing' schools, eliminating the arts, merit pay, value added analysis, special education changes, data driven instruction, and numerous intervention programs such as Response to Intervention. The list really does go on.
However, in the midst of the chaos, I do believe that people should not be paid more simply because they have worked longer. If teachers were not paid more based solely on seniority, then we wouldn't have to worry about districts letting go of expensive veterans to hire the cheaper teachers. All teachers really should be paid equally, with a few exceptions of course. However, paying teachers equally despite the number of years served is not really a trend that is actually happening now, but perhaps in the future I could see it becoming a trend.
I think that is depends on the circumstance. In most cases it is easy to say that the ones that work are the ones that are beneficial, and the ones that don't are not, however, it might need to be further tested to see which ones are truly beneficial and which ones are not. For example, maybe it needs to be tested with a different group of students (maybe high school kids instead of junior high) and the results may be surprising.