Radical Education Reform Seems Sensible

Education leaders have been trying for decades to push forward elements of reform that vary in shape, but are consistent in their aversion. Industrial Age education is no longer serving the industrialized nations as it once did. Reformists agree that housing children in rows of desks for hours at a time with few breaks between lectures and few opportunities to create and collaborate limits what young people can learn.

Reformist efforts, however, diverge on what the education of young people should look like. Some argue that economically diverse societies need “No Excuse” schools that hold high standards for the completion of tasks and adherence to behavior norms like sitting up straight and tracking teachers with good eye contact. Others argue that themed schools with courses that focus on sports science or performing arts allow young people to ‘try on’ a career and that choice is the magic sauce.

Recently, a diverse group of educationists from both the education and business worlds endeavored to envision what a 21st Century education should look like to prepare young people for the world of work and opportunity that exists right now. The result is a ten page position paper entitled, Education Reimagined.

Education Reimagined offers a series of guiding principles for a “Learner Centered Education.” The core message of Education Reimagined is that learning in the “Networked Age” can and should be personalized, and more expansive and inclusive of the full life experience of a young person.

The paper’s authors divide educational experience into three domains: Knowledge, Skills, and Dispositions. Of the twenty-three bullet points outlining these three domains, a full sixteen focus on what can be called social emotional learning. Persistence, resilience, and communicating effectively make the list. Conspicuously absent are specific learning objectives like computational skills or even keyboarding. This is undoubtedly intentional. It is very easy to fill in the space of an individual’s curriculum plan with readily available content. Much more difficult is to push the system in the direction of focussing on skills that are not easily taught by traditional methods.

Another frame of guidance provided by the Education Reimagined authors are the so called “Five Elements” of networked age education.

  1. Competency Based – a movement away from age groupings toward individualized challenge that is formatively assessed and varies in pace according to the learner.
  2. Personalized, Relevant, and Contextualized – a better recognition of individual interests, needs, abilities, and circumstances drives inquiry and practice, again, for the individual learner.
  3. Learner Agency – supporting learners in crafting their own education.
  4. Socially Embedded – utilizing the full breadth (not just the teacher) of a learner’s community to shape and reinforce their educational process.
  5. Open Walled – erasing the boundaries between school, home, and all the other domains of a young person so as to incorporate more of the individual’s life into what is respected for its educational value.

Education reform is a favorite topic in the bully pulpit of every political election. Perhaps this unified vision, crafted by a diverse array of stakeholders, and released in the U.S. just before the meatiest part of the presidential election cycle might gain some purchase? It is certainly no more radical than building a wall along the two thousand mile southern border.

Photo Credit: au_ears Star Trails over Yosemite Valley CC2.0

About Jack West

Teacher, team member, father, neighbor.

4 Responses

  1. Great review Jack! Totally agree that “personalized learning” is the future. NTC is exploring this space and how teachers can be trained and offered ongoing PD to embed personalized learning into their classrooms.

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