New Schools in a New Era

It’s a harsh reality, but several things must change for school transformation. These will challenge your paradigms about schooling.

  1. Most classrooms can be viewed as an anachronism. For example, in a seventh grade classroom, achievements ranges over seven grade levels with any given skill area. That is, some students will be at the third grade level and others at the tenth grade level in a school subject such as reading. Beyond that, the range for the same students may be reversed for different subject, say, math. Beyond even that, low-scoring students may be high-scoring in a subject area not regarded as important, such as dance or a not measured area, like leadership. There will continue to be classrooms but not required of all. With these factors, teachers confront an almost impossible task. Instead of a school comprised of classrooms, personal learning plans and experiential education will ensure deep enduring learning.

2. In transformed schools, teachers will be called facilitators of learning. The keyword, learning replaces teaching. The current trend, student-centered learning will be replaced with student-directed learning. Students will take on the responsibility for their own learning. consider the story of a boy who says to his friend, “I taught my dog how to talk.” The friend says, “Dogs can’t talk. Let me see him talk.” The boy says, “I taught him. I didn’t say he learned it.” Every teacher has experienced this phenomena. Of course,there will be teaching and guidance–and lots of it. It’s just that it won’t be the dominant characteristic of schooling.

3. The present regimen of separate courses will largely disappear. Already, some schools have worked with interdisciplinary courses and competency-based learning. Passing traditional school courses doesn’t guarantee learning. For example, a student may graduate having passed many courses with a D-. One would assume that little learning had occurred. The research indicates that many students, starting in the third grade, are bored every day and do not see the relevance of their studies. Student initiated problem-based topics increase engagement, achievement of important skills and understanding of key knowledge. While school subjects contain nuch valuable information, student study of topics of interest will cover that same information, though, with a different sequence and with greater permanence.

I fought against these changes in.earlier years of my career. I was always disappointed with student achievement despite the dedication and hard work of teachers. I came to understand that these changes could revolutionize schooling. I saw the impossible expectation that secondary teachers would know each of their students in the five classes (150 students) they taught each day.

My book School Transformation describes the replacement of these three items and others with different approaches and activities for learning. Greater learning will result.