I find it interesting that the classroom environments my kids experience has not changed much since I was their age. There have been some changes over the past 30 years as technology has been integrated into the curriculum and there seems to be less time and funding for arts and athletics. Yet the structure of how information is delivered, expected to be retained, and assessed is nearly identical to what I experienced thirty years ago.
Classrooms are still commonly set up with desks in rows. Instruction is still didactic in nature. Students are still expected to regurgitate facts and figures for the sake of a standardized test. And test scores are frequently more valued than actual learning.
It is discouraging to see how little education has changed while the rest of the world is radically different. There are glimmers of hope as school choices increase. Magnet, charter, alternative, and online schools give parents more options to find methods that work best for their kids. Yet even with a wider variety of places where students can be educated, we still need to recognize room for improvement in traditional schools.
Are our kids learning? And more than that, are we learning? Have we learned from past mistakes? Are we learning from education models that are working in other nations? Are we learning from experimental successes? What is the future of education?
I can’t answer all those questions but my experiences have led me to a few conclusions. Our schools need to recognize that not all students learn with the same method and find ways to connect with kids with more than one style of learning. This means greater inclusion of group discussions and collaboration. We need to understand that there are factors beyond a student’s desire to learn that affect their ability to learn and we might need to address their needs in ways that validate their family, health, and economic circumstances.
If we can abandon outdated teaching methods and focus on giving kids the tools they need to learn in today’s culture, then the future of education looks bright.