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I serve on our district’s Graduation Guidelines Committee, and recently we were asked to ponder the four questions below as we work on a plan to address new Graduation Guidelines for the state of Colorado. (The views and opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of my district)
We are the custodians of our students’ future. We will assure that students have the needed knowledge and skills for an uncertain future. We are trusted with ensuring that our students know how to learn, have the skills to do so, and we (as a collective group of stakeholders – teachers, parents, administrators, students, higher ed reps, and business reps) understand that the best preparation for an uncertain future emphasizes the learning skills through a different kind of school experience than we have been accustomed to.
Where must we go?
I believe we must re-evaluate the way we teach, or more importantly, the way students learn, and see where we can make changes to assure students are getting the 21st century and workforce readiness skills that they need. Lecture and textbook-based learning do not help students develop these skills. The norm should be students are learning content along the way to solving complex, real-world problems. Students should be the architects of their own learning. There must be support/scaffolding in place for students who will struggle – but we need to increase voice & choice so we can transfer ownership of learning to the student. Teachers need professional training to learn how to design this kind of learning. And technology must be ubiquitously available for all of our students’ learning. Consider – what percentage of time do you think our students will use paper and pencil in their future work? And what percentage of time do they currently use it? If the answer to the second question is larger than the first, then we must do something to balance this. We can impact how they learn – but the future is already rolling out and this is something we have no control over.
What can we allow?
I think we need to allow whatever it takes – but we need to have parent & community support and their understanding of WHY there is a need to change the way we teach and the way students learn. Higher Ed must also be prepared to make some changes as we and other districts are finding a way to move toward a new model of learning.
What do we hope to allow?
I hope we can allow students to have voice & choice in their learning and how they earn a diploma. I hope we can allow students to continuously practice 21st century/workforce readiness skills in pursuit of showing competency in the academic standards, but student paths can all be personalized. Students should be the architects of their learning, because if they are, they will be able to see a real connection between the learning pathways they choose and their higher education and career paths.