Sunday, October 16, 2011

Education Research: individualizing education

The following are excerpts from the Fall 2011 edition of Independent School, the magazine of the National Association of Independent Schools. The article, "Acknowledging the 'I' in Education: School Redesign from the Ground Up," is by Ryan Wooley, a director of technology, library and media services at a school in Ohio. I like what he's saying, and I really like the sample student schedule he has given at the end. (How feasible it would be to implement for 400 students in a private school, or 1,800 students in a public school, is another question, which luckily I don't have to answer!) A school setting that offered this kind of schedule for a high-school student is one I'd be happy with for my girls, I think, whether it was a "school", a co-op, or a homeschool that was providing it.

"... shouldn't we ask, 'What do we want from schools in 2011 that is not facilitated by their fundamental design? ... Schools are not designed to attend to individual need. Even the most progressive schools are organized around arbitrary units of time. Do I spend a year taking chemistry because that is how long it takes me to learn it? ... What would the structure look like if designed from the perspective of student need? Here is a possibility: students would progress through a topic as they were ready... Students would be the architects of their own learning paths."


"I'm suggesting that we don't need teachers to teach content [because content can be learned from online lectures etc]. Lesson plans should be burned in a giant, glorious bonfire. ... We need to give teachers a new job description. We need them to help students articulate learning paths. We need them to advise and mentor, connect, and encourage. ... Teachers should look more like travel agents - the really good ones who get more excited about your Alaskan cruise than you do."


"[A student's] day might look like the following:
8:00-8:30am - School Meeting in the Auditorium
8:35-9:35am - Meet with science teacher for bi-weekly progress review [of the science curriculum she has designed for herself - the teacher discusses any questions with her, points her towards an upcoming conference on the topic that she might like to attend, and suggests that she schedule a particular lab exercise with the science lab specialist]
9:45-11:45am - writing workshop with writing group
11:45-12:20pm - lunch
12:30-1:00pm - Skype conversation with Chinese-language exchange partner
1:05-1:55pm - Open learning time for group projects / individual exploration
2:00-3:15pm - Live human model drawing"

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