Do you remember thinking as a child, “When I grow up, I want to design mobile apps”? Growing up, did you want to dress up like a social media specialist when playing make-pretend? Of course not, because those jobs didn’t exist!
Yet these jobs, which have only been around for the past 10 years, are some of the most important careers in today’s economy.
There is no doubt about it: preparing our children for the future is a daunting task. And this task does not become easier over time; the rate at which technology, industries, and careers change grows exponentially every year, making it difficult to determine what skills our children will need most to be successful in the workplace.
With this in mind, how do we approach education in a way that equips our children to be successful in a dynamic economy? What elements must be present in our children’s education to prepare them to solve problems and work jobs that don’t exist yet? Here are three critical items that may be missing from your child’s current learning environment:
- Mastery Learning is a method of teaching where an instructor does not move to the next unit of teaching until the group of students has reached a pre-determined level of mastery over the material. Therefore, the class does not move on until the students fully understand the underlying, foundational material required to fully understand what’s next. The ultimate goal of the curriculum isn’t to cover a certain amount of material over a certain period of time, but rather to make sure that the material that is covered is fully mastered and understood by the students. Mastery learning is necessary to prepare our children for a constantly-shifting job market because it’s the only way to ensure they’ll have “tools in the toolbox” to solve the problems of the future.
- Transfer- remember how exciting it was to watch 007 or MacGyver? In 007 movies we watched James Bond receive a set of gadgets, and throughout the movie we witnessed how he used these gadgets to solve a variety of problems. MacGyver, though equally exciting, was the polar opposite: he would encounter a problem first, and then would create a gadget to solve the problem with whatever he had around him. Both of these examples illustrate the educational concept of transfer– the ability to solve a problem using learned material. Transfer works in two ways: there is forward-transfer (the 007 method) which involves teaching a child particular skills that will allow them to solve problems in the future, such as teaching them arithmetic so they can add, subtract, etc. Backwards-transfer on the other hand is equipping a child to solve a problem today based on what they have already learned; if you were to ask a child to build a bridge using a limited amount of marshmallows and toothpicks, they probably do not know how to build a bridge, but can draw on what they’ve learned from math and science to solve the problem. It is important that transfer is present in our children’s curriculum and they are able to observe how it works, as this reveals to them why their education is important and how they will use it in the future. (For more information on transfer and other great analogies of how it works, watch Marc Chun’s TEDx talk.)
- Ownership– studies are showing that the more a student has a sense of ownership over their own education, the better they perform. In many ways this concept seems counter-intuitive: if we give kids control, won’t school turn into nothing but playing, goofing off, texting, etc? Yet the more this idea is considered, the more it makes sense. As a child is given greater control over their learning, the more relevant and interesting their education becomes; their studies are now more meaningful and enjoyable. If a child is interested in computers, why not tailor their mathematics, reading, and science curriculum to fit this? In addition to fueling a motivation to learn, increasing a child’s responsibility in the education process also builds the initiative necessary to compete in a constantly shifting economy. The ability to conduct one’s own learning can make the difference in a child’s future success in both college and their career; yet this skill is so often bypassed in today’s education structure.
So if these educational components are so important, why are they missing from our children’s education? The reason is that they can be very difficult to implement in the traditional model for education. Mastery Learning, for example, requires the teacher to ensure the group of students has mastered a concept before moving on; yet if there is always a subgroup of students who struggle, how can a teacher ensure that a second grader is learning all the material required to pass the 2nd grade?
That’s why here at 21st Century STEM Academy, we are rethinking education to create a model for learning that allows for all these elements to take place. For more information about how we are changing education for the better, feel free to check our website at http://21stcenturystem.academy.
About 21st Century STEM Academy
We are an upcoming private K-8 micro-school (less than 100 students) starting in the Decatur area August 2016. We believe every student deserves a great teacher together with an individualized & personalized learning experience that celebrates their unique gifts and builds their confidence and enthusiasm to take on new challenges. We provide every student with an educational environment designed to propel every student to success, including small class sizes, research-backed methodology, and exciting STEM opportunities including our state-of-the-art flight simulator and 3D printer. To learn more, visit our webpage at http://21stcenturystem.academy or follow us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.