traditional classroom

Stunning: Teachers, students say little has really changed in education

Is K-12 innovation not really happening? New survey indicates that educators, students are frustrated with outdated and heavily traditional classroom practices.

One in four educators participating in a recent survey said their schools are “very traditional,” and findings indicate that these traditional approaches could be holding students and teachers back from more innovative experiences.

The Schools of Hope survey, from learning experience design firm MeTEOR Education, queried more than 7,000 educators.

Twenty-nine percent of surveyed educators indicated their schools are just beginning to integrate project-based, real-world learning approaches.

Seventy-five percent of surveyed teachers reported a dedicated effort to move towards a more relationship-based, student-centered approach. Actual progress lags behind, however. Fewer than 40 percent of educators reported substantial efforts toward more flexible, project- and collaborative-based learning approaches that engage and empower students.

The K-12 Mindshift cohort has just released a new book that takes aim at some of these specific challenges. Co-authors Rex Miller, Bill Latham, and Brian Cahill worked with a team of more than 60 career educators, a wide variety of specialists, NFP organizations, and business community leaders that led to Humanizing the Education Machine: How to Create Schools That Turn Disengaged Kids Into Inspired Learners.

According to Latham, “if the schools profiled in Humanizing the Education Machine taught us anything, we know that visionary leadership is both possible and effective. The principal’s leadership is critical for unlocking the creative expertise of the classroom teacher.”

(Next page: The need for modern classrooms in a demanding economy)

The negative impact of scripted, rote, “machine-like” teaching and learning styles has most recently been illustrated by Latham, Miller and the efforts of the K-12 Mindshift.

Scripted, “one size fits all” schooling characterized by testing and rote learning often led to disengaged students and demoralized teachers. Latham, an ardent proponent of education reform and an Accredited Learning Environment Planner, noted that one surprise was “the number of educators reporting a lack of significant progress towards modern practices.”

Traveling across the country to identify schools that have “broken through” the barriers of poverty and failure, the authors and their K-12 Mindshift team found schools where failure had reached such painful levels that the restraints of traditional curriculum and instruction were finally discarded. New and often simple strategies such as flexible scheduling and mastery-focused module-based learning empower students and account for different student needs. The “flex-mod” scheduling process at Legacy High School in North Dakota stands as a powerful example of schools that embrace “more personalized learning, greater relevance and increased student power,” they noted.

“Saying the student is at the center of learning is much easier than actually designing learning experiences and learning spaces that significantly change the game,” notes Latham. “We found schools – poor, disenfranchised schools – that have done it. They are succeeding, and that means anyone can.”

Moving forward, school leaders will be watching closely as the new Trump administration begins to form, with a preference towards open choice and competition among schools. Old models of teaching and learning that result in student and teacher dissatisfaction are likely to drive highly traditional schools out of business.

Material from a press release was used in this report.

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Laura Ascione
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