Is the current traditional education system stunting the learning of our students? I’m not asking if it works. Only asking if it stunts. What are we teaching our students if we require all learning to occur between the times of 8:00 and 3:00 in the same building? Can students learn about agriculture on their family farm and report their learnings to an instructor? Can students conduct an experiment on their own away from school, record the steps they took, and report the results they found to their instructor? What about PE, band, choir, and art? Can these not be learned away from school? Why are we struggling to find ways for students to bundle classes? Can a student demonstrate learning of a language arts topic while writing papers for social studies, science, math, or any other subject? Do all students learn everything at the same pace? Should they have to learn everything at the same pace? Should students have input in how they learn and how they demonstrate their learning?
I believe if we want to truly develop life long learners we must educate our students that learning does not only take place behind the walls of a school building. We must also teach them that the learnings from each class support all of the other classes. We must teach them to make connections between these classes, or even more importantly, to their interests. We can do this by asking students to come up with their own connections and ways to demonstrate learning. Allow the students to use their own interests in the demonstration of learning. We all know that real-world application is very difficult behind the four walls of a classroom. If students are able to learn more, and apply more outside of the classroom then we should allow them/encourage them to do this, and create a new system that supports this.
Let’s figure out exactly what we want students to know and be able to do. Then allow students and teachers to collaborate to figure out the best path for each student to reach those goals and demonstrate mastery of them. Say goodbye to bells, grades, teachers as the keepers and deliverers of all knowledge, and students as the passive recipients of knowledge. Say hello to personalized learning. If we want students to be lifelong learners we must start teaching them how to learn and understand that this could, and probably will, look different for each and every child.
Did you hear that? That was the sound of the traditional education system blowing up. Let’s build a new one.