Leadership magazine May/June 2015 V 44 No 5 - Page 23

The challenge became apparent when we discovered a wealth of students who could wrench on a vehicle, yet when it came time to apply for the job, too few could actually read the application – let alone communicate their potential contribution to the company through oral or written mediums. One lesson can be learned from this experience: we cannot rely on antiquated nomenclature to build these partnerships again. Before we can reach out to business and post-secondary institutions, some critical questions need to be examined. ports management and administration, do we bring the leadership function back into the principal’s office and our classrooms to create a magnet learning environment? How can we solve current challenges that stretch our imagination with old ways of doing things? How do we once again engage teachers in their craft and begin to accelerate schools and the learning experience to achieve greater depth and perspective? Quantifying learning What is it that we truly want from education? What does it look like? How will we fund it? Outside of direct observation, how do we really know students are learning? How can we measure an education that is competency based? This has always been and continues to be the Archimedean point in our profession that we have yet to cross – quantifying learning for every student. With the advent of the Common Core, there is now an increased awareness and focused effort to teach skills that prepare students to be college and/or career ready, regardless of their chosen path. The problem is that the pedagogy has not kept up with the needs of students. The instant appeal to circumvent this issue is to put a technological device in a student’s hand and expect all of this to disappear. The rush to make many schools 1:1 has resulted simply in digitizing textbooks, not in a transformation of learning into the 2.0 era. Technology, in and of itself, cannot deliver us from antiquated pedagogy. How do we bridge this gap and begin to allow students to explore, question and discover their learning in relevant and applicable ways? How can we translate that “process” into something quantifiable so we can demonstrate authentic learning has actually occurred, and then take it to the business sector to address industry challenges? Public education has the capacity for great change, but it is reluctant to take the risk. The No Child Left Behind Act perpetuated risk aversion, as curriculum, instruction and assessment measures were nothing short of prescriptive. How then, in a field that sup Paradigm shift: Beginning with the student in mind We must begin with the student in mind. As we continue our conversations at the school level about what kinds of pathways we can create for students and connect them to the marketplace, an alternative approach is necessary. We must begin with where the student interest is, then backwards-design a plan to link that interest to the content constructs. This is vital on two fronts: It allows students to make meaning of their learning immediately because they are already engaged in it; and it brings the content alive within the context of their interest – thus students are motivated to learn the material as well as derive the need for further inquiry, which leads to ownership. With this approach, another powerful dynamic emerges. When we begin with the student in mind, private interests and pursuits tend to blur traditional content constructs and confines. If we can do away with the notion that math, English, social science and science need to be taught in isolation, we open an entirely different world of learning opportunity and potential. Teachers then have the ability to construct lessons that are competency-based and fluid. Students can then take the competency and develop the content where they can best demonstrate their mastery in an applicable and personalized way. Wagner (2008) hinted to this approach when he outlined the following seven survival skills for the 21st century: 1. Critical thinking and problem solving. 2. Collaboration across networks and leading by influence. 3. Agility and adaptability. 4. Initiative and entrepreneurship. 5. Effective oral and written communication. 6. Accessing and analyzing information. 7. Creativity and imagination. Imagine what education could be like if these were the actual titles of the courses a student took, and traditional content clusters were taught through the lens of these “skills.” Undoubtedly, as we talk about college and career readiness, these competencies could be delivered in a fundamentally different way than they are now. May/June 2015 23