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« Reinvent Education: Part II | Main | Best Practices: A Look at Finland's Successful Education System »

Reinvent Education: Part I

Today is the first of a series of posts where I will outline the elements to successfully reinventing our education system.  I will break this down into a series of "parts":  i) curriculum; ii) assessment and funding; iii) professional development; iV) defining success metrics;  and other areas that may not require a full dedicated category to.


So Part I will be about the curriculum.  I think there's been enough rhetoric about the need for change, and the need for a complete transformation of our learning centers into contemporary "learning environments.  For a moment,  I would like to stop using the term "21st century skills" because it's already been overused much like "web 2.0" and others.  The Partnership For 21st Century Skills (again, I used the term and didn't follow my own instructions) has some very forward-thinking ideas at how to create the roadmap from a skills point of view.  What do we need to teach our kids?  The aforementioned organization outlines the following student outcomes as "high priority" areas if we are to arm our children with skills needed to succeed in work and also, life:


  • Core Subjects and Interdisciplinary Themes
    • Global Awareness
    • Civics Literacy
    • Financial, economic, business and entrepreneurial literacy
    • Health literacy
  • Learning and Innovation Skills
    • Creativity and Innovation
    • Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
    • Communication and Collaboration
  • Information, Media and Technology Skills
    • Information Literacy
    • Media Literacy
    • ICT (Information, Communications and Technology) Literacy
  • Life and Career Skills
    • Flexibility and Adaptability
    • Initiative and Self-Direction
    • Social and Cross-Cultural Skills
    • Productivity and Accountability
    • Leadership and Responsibilty

In my mind, this is a great start.  Each area has a set of "rubrics" that will outline the skills required from students.   I believe we should then leverage this organization and create an interdisciplinary federally funded national curriculum council.  This council would be comprised of government officials, educators, psychologists, technology experts and subject matter experts to help build the contemporary curriculum that would be required to be followed by school districts if they are to receive any public (state or federal) funding.   This ensures that "real world" experiential learning concepts are continuously threaded into the curriculum.  

Because this process will ultimately be "political," I would like to suggest that we allow the members of the curriculum council to be appointed in some fashion and then be voted on by some governing body.  I will let the public policy experts debate how we set up this system, because I am not a political science expert.  However, what is most important is that these people must have certain prerequisite skills and/or experience as they cannot be solely "political appointees."  I would like to think that out of this process, we can all take comfort that "we the people" had a say in establishing this council, much like local school boards are comprised of elected officials.  I will discuss in Part II how the funding and assessment should work.

A key success factor is that the curriculum is not developed solely by the "establishment.  I also believe that the council must revisit the curriculum on an annual basis to ensure that no adjustments are required.  The curriculum should be focused on utilizing a multimedia approach, meaning that educators must not and cannot utilize solely monolithic lecture-based and textbook-based approaches to learning.  However, there should be enough flexibility in each of the key subject areas for teachers to use whatever tools are required to best connect with their students and cover the concepts effectively.  Again, the end result of this process will be covered in the assessment discussion in my next post.

I see our education challenges as a series of circles on a target.  To me, obtaining agreement on what these skills are is the center of the bulls-eye, and that needs to get consensus first.  Has our education system and its stakeholders obtained buy-in to a common vision before doling out the tremendous sums of money?  I don't believe we have, but I'll let you be the judge of that. 


Like any business or established industry or organization (education is no different), the first step in leading change is to get organized around a common vision.  To me, the above is a strong start.


Stay tuned for Part II which will discuss assessment and funding.

Reader Comments (1)

34 years in education....and I see little new here. MUCH of of what I read here in post # 1 is already occurring in good (if not great) schools all over the country...including the high school where I teach. However, as we explore Project-based Learning and a host of other amazing curricular innovations, we encounter the wall that awaits our students in high school....a university environment that has not changed in decades and a workplace that does not know what to do with the current generation. Hours of lecture, huge classes, and a work environment that neither welcomes innovation nor encourages new thought. There is an ongoing assumption that the American public school system is a disaster. Before suggesting the cure, take a long, hard look at the real disease....a lack of love and passion for LEARNING in our country that awaits our young people when they graduate. Students essentially ask why become well when the waiting world is fundamentally sick.

May 2, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLarry Hurt

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