Sunday, October 21, 2012

It's Time to Shift or Get Off the Pot

It seems as if Education Reform is a hot topic right now.  That's because it is.  I would argue that in order to successfully prepare our students for their future, our education system needs a paradigm shift.

There are lots of ideas regarding "one" solution that will completely "revolutionize" education and fix all of our problems.   However, the reality is that there isn't a simple solution.  This is a difficult challenge.  In order to effectively reform education, there needs to be a completely new vision, a mission to carry out this vision, and accountability for all educators to uphold this vision.

There have been a lot of "silver bullets" that have been crafted by our government with the intention to "fix" education.  However, it seems as if these "silver bullets" are not only "blanks", but we seem to be running out of them. [2] One common solution has been to make a lot of improvements to the current education system which has been operating for hundreds of years.  However, I believe that most of the improvements that have been made are just ways of making a flawed system, a little bit better.  This is not an effective approach.

Public schools were created in a time around the Industrial Revolution, where it was essential to develop workers with a particular skill set.  This is what Paulo Freire refers to as the "banking concept of education". [1]  Overtime, this type of traditional school system hasn't really changed much.  There is a joke I once heard that I particularly like:  If Rip Van Winkle were to wake up today, he would have no idea where he was until he visited a school and he would say, "Oh, I know where I am, I'm in a school".  Rip Van Winkle would identify a school because in reality, not much has changed over the years.  Yes, there have been improvements and gains along the way, but the infrastructure and basic principles of the American public education system is essentially the same.

I am suggesting that the American "public" education system needs to be completely overhauled regarding its infrastructure, policies, pedagogy, standards, and assessments. In order to make this paradigm shift in education, I believe that the following things must change:
  1. Pedagogy needs to change from teacher-centered to student-centered
  2. Assessments (both locally, and nationally) need to be created that measure not only content knowledge, but workplace readiness skills.  These assessments are more difficult to create and are more time consuming to grade, but are a more accurate assessment of students demonstrating mastery.
  3. Students need to be participating in project-based learning where they get to explore their interests, ask their own questions, and practice their creative and critical thinking skills.
  4. Leadership needs to be distributed to include all stakeholders and shift from a "we" know what's best model, to a "you" know what's best model. In other words, leadership needs to change from "power over" to "power with". 
  5. There needs to be more emphasis on the process of learning.  Students need to practice "how to learn" rather than just focusing on "what has been learned".
  6. Policy makers need to have a background in education, coupled with teaching experience. This will ensure that both decisions and policies are made in the best interest of our students, not in our institutions. 
If you notice, all of these changes are in complete opposition to the current model of public education today.  We seem to have education backwards in this country and it will take the effort of all educators from the ground up to make this change happen!

It's time to shift or get off the pot!


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References
  1. Freire, Paulo. Pedagogy of the Oppressed. 1970. 
  2. Hargreaves, A. & Fullan, M. Professional Capital: Transforming Teaching in Every School. Teachers College Press, New York, NY 2012.

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