It is not about getting things done. It is about producing desired results.
By Erika Twani, CEO of Learning One to One
For the past half-century, we have seen innumerous initiatives to improve and transform education – bonus programs for teachers, introduction of technology, curriculum redesign, learning environment upgrades, collaboration communities, and so on. These initiatives carry their merit; however, unless we transform the essence of learning, we are strongly diminishing the chances of success. Three main roadblocks impede improvement in education.
1. Constant Time, Variable Quality
Consider an airline that is always on time. For the sake of being on time, it leaves bags behind and ignores safety checks, but you can be certain it will leave on time. Would that be your favorite airline? There is also a heart surgery doctor that operates no more than 30 minutes on each patient, regardless of the issue. What if your case is life threatening and requires longer attention? One more question: Would you buy a car from a factory recognized for manufacturing on time, but having unreliable products?
That is the picture of the education system today: it expects that a fixed time, with a fixed curriculum will address the learning needs of each student. At the end of a school year, students will end up with grades A, B, C, D, or F; a variable quality in a fixed time. This only induces students and teachers to settle for the average and get the mandatory work done within the established timeframe, rather than producing the desired result of fostering learning to realize students’ potential.
We must shift towards developing learning practices that empower students to manage their own time and challenge themselves to discover a learning pace that will enable them to be successful in academics and in life.
2. Standardized Assessment
Ask Elon Musk and Usain Bolt to run 100 meters. Now ask them to write an article explaining how solar energy works. Musk is not a sprinter, but he can run within his capabilities. Bolt’s talent is sprinting, but he can discuss two or three benefits of solar energy.
Standardized assessments test students’ capacity to memorize what they were taught in the classroom, comparing their grade achievement to each other. Tests are a great tool for students capable of taking exams, but an unfair measure of students’ capabilities. Consider Musk running 100 meters compared to Bolt or Bolt writing an article about solar energy compared to Musk. Would that be a measure of their success?
Testing, as we know it, is unethical! It assumes everyone functions equally, and praises the ones that can take tests. Why do we insist on determining the students’ infinite brain talent with a single measure? In an equality education system, standardized assessment works well because its focus is to offer equal measurement for all students. Whereas an equity education system is fair and impartial to measure students abilities that make them unique and will serve them for life. That is the definition of potential: “a group of abilities that makes someone unique and bring them value.”
Personalized learning is here to stay. There is plenty of research to affirm that. Now we need to personalize assessment, where we evaluate students’ ability to learn, aligned to their potential. Moreover, assessment must be a tool for students to compare them to themselves, not to others. We can only be better human beings – and professionals – if we are better than our yesterday self. Assessments will no longer be an obstacle, but a natural path to perfection.
3. Methodology Change versus System Change
My friend Alex missed three meetings with me because of schedule conflicts. The amount of work was stressing her. She organized her calendar in her head and she knew she had to use Microsoft Outlook, but postponed this change on purpose. Unless she changes her scheduling system, Alex will continue to have the same result: work stress and disorganization.
A methodology change is doing something different with the same principles. A system change is transforming the order and principles to obtain better results. Consider Brazil, a country in the process of establishing and approving the implementation of a national curriculum. Changing the methodology is moving from state curriculum to national curriculum and expecting different results. Changing the system would make the national curriculum relevant to students, personalizing their experience, and therefore, changing the system.
What should we do?
We must have a pragmatic approach towards transformation. We will never transform education if principles are still the same. Using technology to project your classes instead of writing on the whiteboard is not a system change. This is by far the largest impediment to improve education, just doing more of the same with new tools.
Transforming education requires a human-centered learning system approach, where students own the dynamics of learning, catalyzed by educators, and where students use past experiences to solve today’s issues in socio-economics, climate change, health, technology, and so on. Students’ minds are infinitely capable of doing amazing things. Today they are just idle, like private cars before Uber or private houses before Airbnb.
The innovative education system will put idle minds to work towards a better world. The human kind evolution is at the mercy of the idle mind. Therefore, we call all education practitioners to change the history and enable the society with a breakthrough education system that can untap students’ potential.