“Learning has to be productive in order to make sense.”
I agree with Charles Leadbetter, a London researcher who observed different school environments in very poor areas of the world. We promise that education will have extrinsic value, that you’ll be able to make a living because of the education you receive. But for some, waiting 10+ years for the pay-off is way too long. In many of the countries he visited, kids were dropping out at 14-15 years of age to work for a living. What good is an abstract exercise if you can’t pay your bills?
This goes back to the core question of why we have schools. Is it just to train workers? To grab some students’ attention, we need to do at least that. The issue I have is that the world is changing so fast that we need to help students develop critical thinking skills. If we train them on current problems/technologies, those might not be the same issues by the time they leave high school.
This is why I see structuring curriculum through Rigor, Relevance, and Relationships as being key. Give students the challenge, give them real-life application, and let them know that you care if they succeed. That’s how you get motivation. The tough part is filtering out the stuff that doesn’t align with 3Rs, even if it’s how you’ve always done things.
Leadbetter might argue that having a curriculum to begin with doesn’t meet the needs. But we don’t have enough teachers to construct individual lessons for each student. Leadbetter suggests peer-to-peer teaching as an alternative. Also, module-based learning, like you see in well-designed online classes (not the busy work kind), is another way to tackle individual learning. With so much individualism, though, social cohesion is at risk. Definitely some stuff to get your thoughts going.
Check out the video from Charles Leadbetter:
Some of the educational models referenced:
Big Picture schools
Jaringan School in Queensland
Kunscap Skolan schools in Sweden
Reggio Emilia Approach
The Harlem Children’s Zone