In my last post, I commented that the conversation about education reform was beginning to shift from the evils of constant testing back to include new approaches to teaching and learning. Who would believe I would find an example moments later.
We can call this topic the ‘learning my way’ approach. A teacher at PK Yonge laboratory school in Gainesville has won an award for incorporating student directed learning strategies in his classroom. How he does it is bound to engage students. The idea came from a Harvard workshop years ago. He now leads them.
Individualized instruction is hardly new. Making the process creative and innovative can be. Too often, online individualized learning is called innovative when it really is not. Moreover, it is offered as a way to standardize instruction and save money by reducing the required number of teachers.
There is a vision in which books still exist, and teachers are critical. In this world, school choice is not the panacea for reform, but student choice is. If this is a story about what is to come, I am all for it.
Students in this class choose their topics, materials and how they want to demonstrate their learning. The teacher provides the frameworks, access to materials and serves as a guide. There are many books but few on any one topic; some are audio. Instructional materials may come in different forms with and without technology. Yes, there are curriculum standards, but how they are achieved differs.
The teacher, Jon Mondorf, is clearly exceptional. He is quoted as saying “There is no such thing as an average student. When we teach to the average, we exclude everybody”. The teacher was introduced to the concept of ‘Universal Design for Learning’ at a Harvard workshop years ago howellsac.com. He now leads workshops as far away as Japan.
No doubt other teachers use similar strategies. If the State Board of Education listens carefully to this student centered conversation, perhaps the push for standardization can itself incorporate the very methods that lead to the critical thinking and problem solving strategies reform minded educators articulate. It is not a ‘one size fits all’ world. What an exciting discussion this could be.