The Writing is On the Wall. Why Isn’t Anyone Reading It?
College Learning. This past week, Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses,a book by University of Chicago Press, was released. Some of the findings included:
- 45 percent of students “did not demonstrate any significant improvement in learning” during the first two years of college.
- 36 percent of students “did not demonstrate any significant improvement in learning” over four years of college.
- Those students who do show improvements tend to show only modest improvements.
“How much are students actually learning in contemporary higher education? The answer for many undergraduates, we have concluded, is not much,” wrote the authors (http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2011/01/18/study_finds_large_numbers_of_college_students_don_t_learn_much).
High School Students’ Engagement. The Canadian Education Association’s (CEA) released a report What did you do in school today? -a three-year research and development initiative designed to assess, and mobilize new ideas for enhancing the learning experiences of students. First year results revealed generally low levels of student engagement. While almost 70 percent of the 32,322 students reported positive experiences of social and institutional engagement, only 37 percent felt intellectually engaged in learning (http://www.cea-ace.ca/education-canada/article/sorting-students-learning).
Charting the Path from Engagement to Achievement: A Report on the 2009 High School Survey of Student Engagement from the annual High School Survey of Student Engagement (HSSSE) reflected bored students who say they are not connected to their school. The survey asked more than 42,000 high school students about their thoughts, beliefs and perceptions. The 2009 survey covered 103 schools in 27 states. ‘Kids are bored, not connected to school,'” said Ethan Yazzie-Mintz, HSSSE project director. “About 49 percent of the kids are bored every day, 17 percent every class. That’s two-thirds of the kids who are bored at least every day” (http://newsinfo.iu.edu/news/page/normal/14593.html).
- Until the 1840s the education system was highly localized and available only to wealthy people. Free public education at the elementary level was available for all American children by the end of the 19th century (http://www.servintfree.net/~aidmn-ejournal/publications/2001-11/PublicEducationInTheUnitedStates.html). What this means is that institutionalized education for all is less than 150 years old, a very short time span given the length of humankind.
- The high school drop out rates for 2008 for White was 4.8, Black – 9.9, Hispanic – 18.3 American Indian/Alaska Native 14.6. Not surprisingly, then, the percentage distribution of students enrolled in degree-granting college institutions, by race/ethnicity in 2007 was: White was 64.4, Black – 13.1, Hispanic – 11.4 American Indian/Alaska Native – 1 http://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/
The Writing on the Wall
The obvious conclusion from these studies and statistics (as well as others) is that institutionalized education served a purpose for its time, but this purpose is no longer meeting the needs of society nor the learners. Many students are not learning and are bored. The educational system it is one that has racial inequalities.
Educational reformers offer suggestions for improvement, but they are often based on how to reform the current systems of education. I am now of the belief proposed by Alvin Toffler, of Future Shock fame, “We don’t need to reform the system; we need to replace the system.” The writing is on the wall, but few seem to be reading it. The reform movement often includes more of the same – better textbooks, better tests, better teachers – the same “betters” that have been proposed by reformers throughout the history of institutionalized education. To quote Albert Einstein, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
I am passionate about this topic because I found most of my K-Doctorate education to be boring, irrelevant, and frankly painful. I consider myself a model learner – as opposed to a model student (with most teachers agreeing that I was a pain-in-the-butt student). Now, with the internet, I am connected to information 24/7 – any time I desire it – which is often. An example came as I write this. I am listening to a live feed from the DLD11 conference. Don Tapscott just stated via this live feed, “Why should I go to class and listen to a grad student talk about Peter Drucker, when I can hear him speak live on the web?”
I can directly learn from, ask questions of and receive answers from my own teachers, ones that I have identified for myself and connected with via social networks. I am learning more and more often now than any other time in my life due to the resources offered in this information age. I am the master of my own learning. Don’t we owe it to the “next” generation to help them do the same?
The writing is on the wall, most are not reading it, but some are. Some grassroots initiatives to re-form the educational system include:
- Unschooling – http://www.unschooling.com/
- Edupunks – http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/138/who-needs-harvard.html
- University of the People – http://www.uopeople.org/
- Open Education Resources – http://www.oercommons.org/
. . . and my own proposal is a personalized education leveraging Communities of Practice Learning Centers, both online and in-person. One of my pastimes is ceramic pottery. I go to the local arts center that offers ceramic classes and a lab. The open lab is my favorite time. It is a time when anyone can come in to make pots. The folks that show up are both male and female, and of all ages from teens to senior citizens. One of my favorite sites is seeing a teen and senior citizen learning together – sometimes the senior teaching the youth, and sometimes the other way around. Age and gender does not matter, mastering ones own interests and craft does. This is one of my Communities of Practice Learning Centers, others include my Zumba classes, my online Personal Learning Networks (e.g., Learn Central, Classroom 2.0), and my Twitter/Facebook networks. I took the responsibility to locate and contribute to these communities because these are my passions.
At this time in history, the purpose of education should be to assist learners in identifying their passions and sparks, and then in locating/establishing their own Communities of Practice Learning Centers to master those passions.
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