I’m glad that Wil Richardson’s post, “The UnCommon Core“, appeared on my radar this morning. My primary background as an educator is in Career and Technical Education (CTE) and I was fortunate that the rigid teach to the test pressures were not present in our school.
Our students learning outcomes were guided by the needs of business and industry and from the input of our advisory committees. Our teaching and learning embodied the eight big ideas described by Dr. Seymour Papert (1999), as cross-posted at the GenYES blog.
As I read the Eight Big Ideas, I wonder why more schools are not doing what we did? The learners I worked with absolutely loved coming to our school, and here’s why:
Their learning was relevant to their interests. After so many years of doing what the curriculum prescribed, much of which was ‘just in case’, they found that what they were doing made sense to them and how they might apply those skills in their daily lives and in the careers that they are interested in pursuing.
They were always involved in building something. Everything they did was a hands-on project with an authentic assessment. They could get instant feedback on anything they created, either from their peers, their instructor or did what they just built actually perform as expected.
Our work was difficult but was engaging at multiple levels. When our students stop paying attention to the clock and almost miss their bus because they are so into their projects, you know something is working. When seniors keep coming to school even after they have finished their school year (they get out 2-3 weeks earlier than 11 grade), you know something is working. When our students contact you 2 years later and tell you that they are glad you set expectations high because it prepared them for their current jobs, you know something is working.
When our students can get both college credit and learn skills that they can use immediately in their lives, and thank you for putting in the hard work to make that possible, you know you’re doing something right. I could go on about the obvious success our students in CTE, but will do a wondering first:
Why can’t school be like CTE? Why isn’t Project-Based Learning more common in schools? Why are testing companies driving what our student’s are learning, instead of the needs of our communities and the interests of our students?
So, where are we going in education?