Does Education Need to Change?

George Siemens asks for a response to his post, Need Help: Does Education Need to Change?

  1. Does education need to change?
  2. Why or why not?
  3. If it should change, what should it become? How should education (k-12, higher, or corporate) look like in the future?

I decided to just freethink some ideas onto a document – giving myself 20 minutes or so. For the last six months or so, I have given much thought to the creation of best case learning environments. Observing classes in two African cultures has certainly influenced my thinking!

Here were my most immediate, top-of-consciousness thoughts:

Does education need to change?

Doesn’t that depend on the context and needs of the learners?

What is the goal of education?

If I believe the ultimate goal of education is to empower and maximize the potential of an individual to the benefit of greater society ( and there is an implicit value system in all of those statements, I will admit), then these are the changes I see as necessary:

  • A more humane way of evaluating “success” and competency development
  • The creation of a learning environment that is positive, encouraging – rewards success and permits a good deal of formative assessment that provides scaffolding along the way for the struggling learner
  • Opportunity for reality-based learning with a “real” audience or outcome that benefits from the learning and investigation
  • Opportunity for reflection and development of metacognition
  • Opportunity for more advanced learners to seek out their own approach to inquiry-based learning that crosses over the traditional boundaries of many disciplines
  • Opportunities for learners to experiment with their own voice and the power of their voice
  • Opportunities for learners to collaborate and communicate in problem-solving scenarios – where debate and conflict are embraced and accepted
  • Opportunities for learners to take risks; and where forgiven is extended when mistakes are made
  • Opportunities for learners to think outside themselves – beyond their own culture and socioeconomic status
  • Instructor/teachers become facilitators who are aware of best approaches because of the information they gain from participation in a network and/or keeping abreast of research
  • A sense of humour and/or sense of play is regarded as essential
  • Mutual respect and dignity between all participants in the learning process

What is missing from what I have written? I surprised myself.

No mention of technology.

So, if the tools of tech fit into the above best-case scenario of a learning environment, then that is terrific. If not,…

I would welcome any comments or critiques of my free-thinking results….

3 thoughts on “Does Education Need to Change?

  1. I love your ideals. I agree with them completely. So here’s my question. What does this school look like? I’ve been thinking lots about what education will look like in the future, and I’ve observed at a number of models – SLA, High Tech High, and The MET to name three. These are all radical departures from traditional education and I believe pull in some of your characteristics. So what does your school look like? What is the curriculum? What is the structure of the day? How do you keep students engaged and happy?

  2. Sharon Peters says:

    Hi Alex, you sure ask tough questions!

    This school? I guess I created what I saw as principles for any school, but the CONTEXT will shape what the school actually looks like.

    Culture will help to define the context. What are the needs of the learners? What skills do they possess, what skills do they NEED and what access do they have to resources outside of the school?

    How supportive are parents and the community?

    As I developed those ideals/principles, I was very much thinking of those South African and Kenyan classrooms I visited a few months ago as well as my own classes. The needs are different; the skill sets they bring in to the classroom are different; the resources they have available at home are very, even radically, different.

    Yet that aspect of humanity as a fundamental remains the same.

    What they all share is a student-centred approach.

    Personally, I am very turned off by a business model of schooling and believe me, that was very much present in the African systems too.

    When economics become bottom-line in education, I think our students are in trouble.

    And now we are facing an economic down-turn – what happens next in education could be frightening and should be of concern to all of us.

    I will think through my perfect school in Canadian context… and would love to hear about yours in your cultural context.

    Thanks for those tough questions!

  3. Tough questions indeed. I’m working on my manifesto. I believe in minimum standards of reading, writing and math (if that is corporate so be it). I also believe that engaging students with projects that use higher order thinking skills where they learn the lower order skills along the way. There needs to be balance. Student centered is key and lots of the research on teaching and learning right now helps individualize (differentiate) learning.

    I’ll let you know when the concept of this school is ready. Thanks for asking the big questions.

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