Many of the best and brightest educators in Nashville call STEM Prep Academy home. Together our teaching faculty and school leaders have more than 215 years of teaching experience, have studied and worked in more than 40 countries and speak more than 16 languages. Their unique experiences and perspectives are seen throughout our classrooms and hallways – and now on this blog. We invite you to return to our blog each month for fresh ideas, insights and strategies that can be replicated and implemented in your school or district.
Does our education system currently equip students with the skills they need to be successful adults
and impactful contributors within our changing world?
As a public school teacher, the answer to this question is important to me, and sadly, I know that the answer is not consistent from class to class and from school to school.
For me, this question really came to the forefront when I began studying the American education system while working on my doctorate in education. Suddenly, I found myself reconsidering how education in general should be structured and to what end.
What are the skills students need to acquire to become successful adults? In his book Five Minds For the Future, Howard Gardner argues that successful adults have the following five skills:
1. The disciplined mind emphasizes encouraging focus and consistent work to master a particular skill set.
2. The synthesizing mind focuses on a person’s ability to access and digest multiple pieces of information to create a cohesive output.
3. The creating mind emphasizes innovation through creating a new and independent idea to solve a complex problem or improve something.
4. The respectful mind looks at humanity as a whole and includes complex interpersonal skills.
5. The ethical mind looks at complex decisions and allows someone to make a moral, or correct, choice.
Based on my experiences and observations in the classroom, there is much more that we can do within the current education system to incorporate these skills in our daily lesson plans. Our current education system is segmented into specific content areas. Planning across curriculum and incorporating these skills can greatly improve a student’s ability to think critically and be more prepared for the complex world in which we live.
It isn’t all bad news though. We can see glimmers of these skills being taught, for example, through project-based learning. For instance, in social studies, students may be asked to synthesize and analyze census data (using mathematics) to understand social trends within a particular time in history, developing a focus paper as the culmination of the research (English/language arts). Or in reading, students may be posed with an ethical dilemma that they will need to analyze and form a solution to. However, this should not just be a “project”, we need to be giving kids opportunities to utilize these authentic and integrated thinking skills daily.
What happens if cross-curriculum learning is difficult in your school or project-based learning is not something you have the ability to utilize often? Teachers must find ways to explicitly teach these skills within their current instructional model and/or adopt new practices within the classroom.
Over the next few weeks, I will publish a series of blogs – one blog for each skill – with some helpful strategies that can be implemented across a grade level or simply within a classroom to aid teachers in ensuring students are building the skills they need to be successful now and in the future. Our world depends on it.