Are the teaching approaches we think of as innovative really innovative? Are students learning anything in our classes? What even is the purpose of school?
If questions like these energize or disturb you, you'll want to read what venture capitalist Ted Dintersmith has to say about his quest for answers to education's biggest problems. Every public school teacher and administrator ought to ponder, as Dintersmith did, whether students in America are learning anything that will truly prepare them for life in the real world.
In this article from The Washington Post, Dintersmith challenges several cherished notions about our schools that haven't been dusted off and reexamined in over a century. He also points out flaws in some "innovations" schools flock to now that are not truly innovative and are not truly growing kids' minds. One example? The flipped classroom.
Dintersmith writes, 'There’s lots of eduspeak chatter about “flipping the classroom” — kids watch boring lectures at home at night, and do low-level multiple-choice questions at school. Hardly a breakthrough. . . ." It's true that the ideal of the flipped classroom has students working in class on problems that require the teacher's assistance, not 'low-level multiple-choice questions,' but the point that none of this is truly innovation is valid. The flipped classroom does the same old thing in a not very different way.
So what is truly innovative education that really does prepare kids for the real world? The article explores approaches by several successful schools across the country.
According to Dintersmith, some 500 "Deeper Learning" schools are doing certain things right:
a sense of purpose and authenticity in student experiences
trust in teachers to teach to their passions and expertise
a focus on essential skills (collaboration, communication, creativity, critical analysis)
teachers as coaches, mentors, and advisers, not as lecturers
lots of project-based challenges and learning
public display of meaningful student work
Do these objectives reflect your classroom teaching this week? Or is it all about that standardized test in April?
Read more about Dintersmith here and view a preview for his award-winning documentary, Most Likely To Succeed, which has been called the antithesis of Waiting For Superman. 'The film raises important questions,' Dintersmith says, 'but respects each school’s desire and ability to forge a creative path forward. I’m hoping to find change agents in schools, districts, and states across the country, and provide them with a powerful resource to help them have a positive impact on the futures of our children.'