Friday, December 7, 2012

Challenging recent education initiatives

Excerpts of Lisa Nielsen's guest post on SmartBlog on Education:

Schools are missing the boat when it comes to addressing the problem of preparing students to recapture America’s leadership in producing scientists, inventors, engineers, programmers and more through STEM initiatives. The answer has little to do with more teachers, more common graduation requirements, more tests or more school as our policymakers and corporations who stand to profit off this have suggested.
Instead, if we listen to what the experts in these fields are telling us we discover that when it comes to producing successful STEM graduates, the key lies in the adage “less is more.”
Five lessons from STEM experts
1) Less common requirements/more specialty paths. As the common core standards come to schools there is a danger of requiring students to demonstrate competency in the same bloated, one-size-fits-all curriculum rather than giving students a choice of areas on which to concentrate. Specialty paths should be offered for students who want to focus deeply on that which they are interested. Students should not be penalized for not choosing to study or not thriving in areas that are not in alignment with their pursuits.
2) Less school/more real-world opportunities. You rarely hear of scientists lauding brick, mortar and fluorescent lights as optimal environments for discovery, creativity or invention. If we want to foster success in those pursuing STEM careers, we can support students in leaving the day-to-day of school and learning through authentic apprenticeship, lab or work opportunities. Schools like Big Picture allow students two days per week to learn in the world and have tremendous success in producing graduates who move on to the college or career of their choice.
3) Less memorization/more exploration. We often confuse the memorization of facts with learning so it’s no wonder that after years of memorizing facts about science, math and other subjects, high school students often have little knowledge of any of these topics. Memorizing algorithms or the periodic chart does not help most learners acquire the foundation necessary for success in STEM-related fields. Exploration does.
4) Less medicating/more options. It’s not unusual for those passionate about STEM-related pursuits to be considered school misfits. To address this, rather than providing youth with additional options, more and more young people are being medicated. If we want to foster creativity and invention, before turning to medication, we must consider alternate options for children who want, need and demand a non-traditional setting where they can have access to technology (rather than be banned) and pursue extended independent studies rather than those driven by bells and birth dates.
5) Less testing and textbooks/more making and learning from real experts. Along with common core comes the multibillion-dollar common testing and textbook industry. More tests and textbooks that are more rigorous do not lead to more scientists and engineers who are more prepared. Instead, testing and textbooks suck the fun and passion out of learning. Instead give students more opportunities to do and make with real-world experiences or programs like Maker Faire.
If our nation is to produce more citizens successful in science, technology, engineering and math, we must stop listening to politicians and corporations and start taking our lessons from the experts in those fields. When we do that, we can see that with less common requirements, less testing, less memorization, less medicating, and less school, we will have more students ready for success in the fields we desire.
Lisa Nielsen (@InnovativeEdu) has worked as a public-school educator and administrator since 1997 and is the author of “Teaching Generation Text: Using Cell Phones to Enhance Learning” and The Innovative Educator blog.

1 comment:

  1. Great post! Following your passion will create the need to learn the modules (factoids) of knowledge, but as an integrated whole, which is missing in much "education," which is usually just a survey course.
    Constant practice makes constant learning valuable and important.