Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Is Your School Preparing Learners for Success? 5 Questions to Consider

Guest post by Shane Krukowski

“The future is something which everyone reaches at the rate of sixty minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is.”
~C. S. Lewis

Redesigning education involves much more than providing content online, prescribing canned interventions and adding interactive whiteboards to every room. It means choosing the abilities that transcend today’s paradigms, so that we authentically prepare students for the emerging challenges and opportunities ahead. It also means valuing assessment that gives us MORE THAN high scores, but low ability. If you look at  just about any school’s website, brochure or annual report you’ll see many references to similar goals. However upon closer investigation we often find this is not reality.

How do you know if your school is preparing students for their future or their teacher’s past?  Here are some questions to think about when considering if learners are effectively being prepared for their world.

1. How is your schedule effectively meeting the needs of your learners?
As Tom Vander Ark articulates in his book “Getting Smart: How Digital Learning is Changing the World, “Master schedules will give way to interesting blends of customized learning experiences and projects that encourage integration and application. Just-in-time learning will become more common, slowly replacing the current model of just-in-case learning.”
2. How do you prioritize pedagogy over ‘curriculum’?
What are you doing to create rich learning experiences and cut through superficial busywork that makes adults feel productive, but does little to reinforce/expand a student’s skills, interest and knowledge. If a school responds with the standard brochure talk of ‘high expectations’, ‘common core’ and or ‘interactive whiteboards in every room,’ follow with the question “how?”
3. How do you build relationships with learners?
How are positive relationships with teachers, mentors, coaches and family being fostered and supported?
4. How are you educating parents to the importance and relevance of personalized assessment?
Look up a stock on Google Finance and see how many qualitative and quantitative measures you have at your finger tips.  Why is it for human capital we don’t have the same appreciation for multiple metrics?  
5. How are you motivating students to keep learning?
In his book Outliers, Malcom Gladwell recommends we maximize the number of innovators we cultivate and foster which requires looking at human motivation in new ways and recognizing the importance of imagination and creativity. How is your school fostering empowering students to own the learning?

Too often schools attempt to polish the edges of their model in attempt to live up to this bigger vision. They hand select individual pieces of effective practice and then when it fails or doesn’t scale, they wonder why. These are schools that do things like proclaim, ‘we do competency-based evaluation’, but use course-based transcripts with GPAs--and they don’t realize the inconsistency. To effectively scale authentic, personalized learning and assessment, educators need to embrace new practices, utilize different tools, and ask important questions such as these.

Shane Krukowski is Managing Director of Project-based Learning Systems, LLC of Milwaukee, WI. Before co-founding PBLS in 2005, Shane managed the apprenticeship program at a non-profit educational organization that mentored and trained disenfranchised urban youth (Homeboyz Interactive). During that time, Shane saw the significant results student-centered project-based learning brought to bear as well as the challenge of managing it with existing traditional tools. Shane is an active supporter of teacher-led schools and advocate of strong charter school laws. He lives in Milwaukee with his wife, Sarah, and two daughters and has an Masters from Marquette University and BBA from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.  
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  1. Nicely done, Shane!

    Undoubtedly, no task is more significant or important than improving the schooling provided to learners - despite the burdens of diminishing resources, rapidly changing learners, and rising expectations.

    Beliefs and values must be translated into actions that promote and foster the improvement of schooling. As the axiom of biology says "The difference in living and dead creatures is found in whether nor not the creature is growing." This is true in schooling as well. Schooling must meet and exceed the needs of the learner now and in the future. As level of quality results from the interaction of people and systems, I suggest every schooling stakeholder to focus on improvement of process rather than on immediate decisions for current results.

  2. Standardize testing is and pacing guides is virtually Killing all creativity in the classroom for teachers and students. Many administrations have little concern for the welfare of teachers or students. Parents and adults everywhere need to fight the lack of funding and current direction of education.