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Education Needs to Push the Hard-Reset Button

by Matt Ridenour

The current public education system has stagnated. The information and technology explosion has exposed a behemoth that is not able to pivot and adapt. Without massive action, the United States will continue to lose traction in our ever-shrinking global learning community. Is it time to push the Hard-Reset button and start over?

Here are the basic tenets of the paradigm shift:

1. Eliminate the concept of age tied to grade

2. Eliminate structure of hourly periods and teachers/students in a box

3. Establish a clear progression of skills and check points

4. Create modules of learning that:

a. Help guide students to their clearest path of interest

b. Provide a thorough, verifiable understanding of a subject or topic

c. Are sequential and upon completion provide a complete set of knowledge applicable to a career or higher education study pathway

d. Provide a comprehensive mix of experiences, both mental and physical, that encompass individual, small group, large group, and cyber learning

e. This system should be created with an OPEN SOURCE mentality so that it is perpetually being redesigned and refined.  This will ensure highest and best practices for an ever-evolving knowledge base.

The 30,000 Foot View

• Establish “Rivers of Learning”

• Each river represents a major field of human interest

• Each river is divided into subsets or streams that provide a more specialized learning mode.

• All rivers flow to the same “ocean” which is a learner who is prepared for one of 2 things:

• Further specialized study

• (Doctor, lawyer, engineer, etc.)

• Entrance into the labor/workforce

The 20,000 Foot View

• Define all skills necessary for success in every area/profession.

• Provide a published visual roadmap to completion

• Define both horizontal and vertical parameters for progress in each study area.

• Each stream of study contains modules that spiral in complexity until the student has mastered the entire skillset.

• These modules/learning packets accumulate to a complete body of knowledge.

• Each stream shares the common human elements that all students need in order to become successful adults

• Health and human function, including diet and exercise knowledge

• Common sense tools

• Financial tools

• Communication tools

• Etc.

The 10,000 Foot View

• Begin each student with a common play-based curriculum.  

• Use well designed early childhood modules to determine learning types and interests. 

• Guide students to the stream that best suits their interests.

• At a certain point, a stream of learning is declared and followed. Until that point, all modules are general in format.

• Students may transfer to different streams if interests change, and all modules are weighed for compatibility for that new stream. If early modules are well designed, student interests are accurately identified and changing streams would be rare.

The 5,000 Foot View

Changes necessary at the basic level of our current system:

• Eliminate structured classrooms

• Eliminate mandatory lecture format

• Eliminate mandatory period structure

• Create open learning centers

• Create single study centers as well as small and large group study/collaboration centers

• Create modules that require both mental and physical maturity.

• This is a safeguard against gifted students completing all modules at a very young age and entering the workforce before they are physically mature.

• Modify the role of teacher to the role of mentor/teacher.

• Teachers would provide labs, lectures, office hours, and single, small group and large group instruction as needed.

• The school would provide the space and the mentors, but the students would use them a la carte.  

• Define module completion with subjective and/or objective criteria.

• A panel of mentors/facilitators would determine any subjective completion questions, with a governing body system.

• OR

• Objective criteria would be based on standard assessments and official proctors. (However, it would be much preferable to eliminate the concept of exit exams and replace them with sequential measurable completion tasks.  For example, Module 1 has an objectively defined completion point that unlocks module 2. 

Part of completion would be student involvement in furthering the library of modules available for that stream of study.  

This open source mind set would help refine best practices and create an ever upward evolving pillar of knowledge.

Barriers to entry:

Our current system is massive and unable to pivot. Infrastructure and labor pools represent daunting obstacles to change. I recommend that we begin with study models to refine this approach as a means to transition our school system to its next highest function.  

Further, models of 2-year sprints would provide the quickest accountable results. A program beginning with Kindergarten or young five candidates studied over 2 years, alongside another model of 11th and 12th grade students would provide much needed data to roll out on a larger scale.

This article was originally published by The Learning Counsel

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