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Five things students say they want from education

Technology, creativity, and choice are among the features students would like to see in school

“Most often heard from students: ‘Why do I need to know this?’” says an eSN reader.

With so many education stakeholders debating the needs of today’s schools, student voices aren’t always heard when it comes to what they want from their education.

And while it’s important to note what businesses would like to see in their future employees, at the end of the day it really comes down to the students themselves.

We recently asked eSchool News readers: “What’s the one thing you hear most often from students about what they want in school?”

Though the responses were numerous, readers repeated these five things students want the most (responses edited for brevity). What do you think of this list? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

5. Interactive technology

“My fourth grade students want more interactive technology. I have four computers in my classroom, one provided by the school and three provided by me. My students use them for math, writing, researching, and interactive math and word games. They also want more time to reflect on what they learn. They especially want more hands-on science where they can experiment, discuss, and reflect on what they observed, and then redo the activity. Too often, because we have so much to cover in the curriculum, deeper understanding is lost in the milieu.” —Mike Larzelere

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Comments:

  1. paulsmathers

    August 2, 2011 at 1:44 pm

    The trend is toward more and more regulation requiring more and more reporting. It is time to step back and allow teachers the freedom to teach. I can remember the time when even a mid-size school district had a single Superentendent without any need for assistants. Many school principals also taught and had time for both. Teachers taught and did not need to spend hours completing forms for management. Progress may be good, but what we have now is a glut at the top. They are requiring more and more reporting just to justify their overpaid positions. Lets advance by going back to a time when children really learned because teachers could teach.

  2. RhondaGregory

    August 2, 2011 at 3:30 pm

    I agree that allowing choice whenever feasible is a great motivator to students. As a teacher, I do this in a variety of ways. However, I believe that we have to moderate those choices or else we are fostering a rise in a detrimental attitude among our students – entitlement. In addition to teaching content, we are teaching students essential life skills – cooperation, self-discipline, and diligence in doing a job well. These qualities will help them become successful in life and in their careers. If we can teach students these attributes in addition to giving them a sense of ownership and responsibility, we will do well in this delicate balancing act.

  3. RhondaGregory

    August 2, 2011 at 3:30 pm

    I agree that allowing choice whenever feasible is a great motivator to students. As a teacher, I do this in a variety of ways. However, I believe that we have to moderate those choices or else we are fostering a rise in a detrimental attitude among our students – entitlement. In addition to teaching content, we are teaching students essential life skills – cooperation, self-discipline, and diligence in doing a job well. These qualities will help them become successful in life and in their careers. If we can teach students these attributes in addition to giving them a sense of ownership and responsibility, we will do well in this delicate balancing act.

  4. RhondaGregory

    August 2, 2011 at 3:30 pm

    I agree that allowing choice whenever feasible is a great motivator to students. As a teacher, I do this in a variety of ways. However, I believe that we have to moderate those choices or else we are fostering a rise in a detrimental attitude among our students – entitlement. In addition to teaching content, we are teaching students essential life skills – cooperation, self-discipline, and diligence in doing a job well. These qualities will help them become successful in life and in their careers. If we can teach students these attributes in addition to giving them a sense of ownership and responsibility, we will do well in this delicate balancing act.

  5. frharry

    August 8, 2011 at 7:17 pm

    There are a lot of unexamined presumptions in this article. Here’s one:

    “And while it’s important to note what businesses would like to see in their future employees, at the end of the day it really comes down to the students themselves.”

    This seems to presume that schools are somehow driven by business imperatives. Why would that be so? Why would we presume that the imperatives of educational institutions are somehow synonymous with those of corporations narrowly defined by concern for profit? Might education entail a much broader set of imperatives? Might future citizens need to learn about a broader set of concerns?

    This also seems to presume that students are consumers who, like at Disney’s Magic Kingdom, may not always be right but they’re always the guest. Why would that be so? Why would we presume that students necessarily know what needs to be taught in schools and colleges? Do we presume that patients know how their surgery should be conducted prior to visiting their physicians? Moreover, do schools have no more concerns than satisfying individual customers? Are there no larger imperatives that drive public education, such as insuring an educated public for purposes of citizenship in an
    increasingly diverse society?

    Here’s another:

    “The one thing that students want most in school can be summed up in one word: Choice.”

    The ability to choose is one of the privileges of human beings that reflect a respect for human dignity. Informed choice is generally a component of a healthy society. But choice considered as an ultimate value, regardless of whether it is informed or not, is misguided and potentially dangerous.

    Most students choose subjects that they know will offer them little challenge. The verbally gifted student might well avoid the math classes they need to function in a technologically sophisticated culture. And most future STEM majors will avoid anything that requires them to express their thought in written or verbal form like the plague. Most students will not take foreign languages unless required to do so even as the internet and international business has rendered national boundaries and cultural barriers increasingly meaningless.

    A high school sophomore might want nothing but cake to eat at lunch time. But that doesn’t mean school cafeterias should be made unquestioning satisfiers of such thoughtless choice.

    Finally, this one:

    “Most often heard from students: ‘Why do I need to know this?’”

    It’s a fair question. Teachers and professors should be able to offer some explanation as to why they teach what they teach in the manner in which they teach it. If nothing else, this question ought to prompt mindfulness among educators as to their daily enterprise.

    On the other hand, the question presumes that the student raising it will necessarily be able to comprehend the answer. In fact, far too often, without life experience to know first hand why math skills, foreign languages and the ability to express oneself effectively if not eloquently are important, students often cannot appreciate the answers they are given and simply dismiss the class as a burden imposed upon them.

    The reality is that the enterprise of education is poorly served when reductionist thought is used to consider it. Student desires are not the final word in education, they are simply one of the many considerations. Similarly, business imperatives are not the ultimate values for educational curricula and pedagogy, they are simply one of the many values brought to bear upon the educational process. Students are one segment of our culture. Business is one segment of our society. Their interests are important but they do not subsume the rest of the culture and society of which they are a part. And we serve our students poorly when we operate out of such indefensible presumptions.

  6. frharry

    August 8, 2011 at 7:17 pm

    There are a lot of unexamined presumptions in this article. Here’s one:

    “And while it’s important to note what businesses would like to see in their future employees, at the end of the day it really comes down to the students themselves.”

    This seems to presume that schools are somehow driven by business imperatives. Why would that be so? Why would we presume that the imperatives of educational institutions are somehow synonymous with those of corporations narrowly defined by concern for profit? Might education entail a much broader set of imperatives? Might future citizens need to learn about a broader set of concerns?

    This also seems to presume that students are consumers who, like at Disney’s Magic Kingdom, may not always be right but they’re always the guest. Why would that be so? Why would we presume that students necessarily know what needs to be taught in schools and colleges? Do we presume that patients know how their surgery should be conducted prior to visiting their physicians? Moreover, do schools have no more concerns than satisfying individual customers? Are there no larger imperatives that drive public education, such as insuring an educated public for purposes of citizenship in an
    increasingly diverse society?

    Here’s another:

    “The one thing that students want most in school can be summed up in one word: Choice.”

    The ability to choose is one of the privileges of human beings that reflect a respect for human dignity. Informed choice is generally a component of a healthy society. But choice considered as an ultimate value, regardless of whether it is informed or not, is misguided and potentially dangerous.

    Most students choose subjects that they know will offer them little challenge. The verbally gifted student might well avoid the math classes they need to function in a technologically sophisticated culture. And most future STEM majors will avoid anything that requires them to express their thought in written or verbal form like the plague. Most students will not take foreign languages unless required to do so even as the internet and international business has rendered national boundaries and cultural barriers increasingly meaningless.

    A high school sophomore might want nothing but cake to eat at lunch time. But that doesn’t mean school cafeterias should be made unquestioning satisfiers of such thoughtless choice.

    Finally, this one:

    “Most often heard from students: ‘Why do I need to know this?’”

    It’s a fair question. Teachers and professors should be able to offer some explanation as to why they teach what they teach in the manner in which they teach it. If nothing else, this question ought to prompt mindfulness among educators as to their daily enterprise.

    On the other hand, the question presumes that the student raising it will necessarily be able to comprehend the answer. In fact, far too often, without life experience to know first hand why math skills, foreign languages and the ability to express oneself effectively if not eloquently are important, students often cannot appreciate the answers they are given and simply dismiss the class as a burden imposed upon them.

    The reality is that the enterprise of education is poorly served when reductionist thought is used to consider it. Student desires are not the final word in education, they are simply one of the many considerations. Similarly, business imperatives are not the ultimate values for educational curricula and pedagogy, they are simply one of the many values brought to bear upon the educational process. Students are one segment of our culture. Business is one segment of our society. Their interests are important but they do not subsume the rest of the culture and society of which they are a part. And we serve our students poorly when we operate out of such indefensible presumptions.


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