The learning spectrum is broad: On one end, there’s the student who loves a challenge; at the other exists one who consistently doubts his or her ability to successfully complete that challenge—and there are countless other types of students in between. Whether students are best suited to a traditional lecture, independent reading, or working with peers in a more visual environment, it’s well known that no two learn in the same manner.
Unfortunately, the way educators teach is not conducive to the different ways students learn. While schools traditionally measure success on the product of learning (i.e., results from standardized tests, school rankings, and percentiles), they often neglect the process. As it stands, students are continuously monitored and measured via state-issued tests and assessments that focus on how well they can repeat information verbatim. This learning method does little to teach children important life skills like collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking, and often, students forget the information they learned faster than teachers can say, “Pencils down.”
Should educators keep trudging through “product”-based education, disregarding children’s natural abilities to learn, or shift to a more formative learning process to help students excel in their chosen field of study?
Learning is a journey, not a destination: It’s time to treat it as such
Differentiated instruction is one solution to this problem, but it is impractical to implement at scale; school districts and educators face major roadblocks in terms of time and cost required. This leaves educators using a teach-to-the-middle strategy, resulting in holding some students back from reaching their potential and others struggling to keep up. While educators often grade students based on how well they’ve synthesized and memorized information, the innate process of learning and curiosity is far more important to help students succeed.
Changing the status quo
How do we foster change in such an ingrained legacy system of education? The best place to start is at the classroom level, where teachers can begin to shift their instructional practice and see real-time feedback on successes or opportunities for improvement. Instead of teaching the same lesson plan to an entire class, educators should focus on the 5 Cs—collaboration, communication, creativity, and critical and computational thinking—to foster greater learning.
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