“The principle goal of education in the schools should be creating men and women who are capable of doing new things, not simply repeating what other generations have done.”
We live in a time where the ideas and philosophical underpinnings of Jean Piaget’s are relevant and essential. Our society is currently in a state where we need free thinkers who can create, build and plan, in ways we have not done before. When a society fails to do this it is not due to a lack of resources, it is because our thinking holds us captive to a reality which no longer works.
If society is broken then it is the role of education to fix it. With the emergence of charter schools, new methods of teaching and learning are beginning to replace our traditional approach. From K-12, to university and college settings, to “Race to the Top” and “Waiting for Superman” it is evident that we need reform to revolutionize our schools. The question remains “How do we do this”?
As a K-12 educator, university professor, mother of two, and free-thinking educator, I believe this challenge begins with our teachers. We need to show them how to let our children keep their creativity and capitalize on their ability to construct knowledge from their experiences. We need to abandon old ways of teaching, that views learning as a passive experience in which teachers declare essential information and students absorb it. We know from brain research that learning does not occur this way. People are selective about what they learn and process. Knowledge is constructed from the learner and not directly from the teacher or environment.
The issue of motivation and engagement in school has often been overlooked or used to classify students who are deemed disruptive, or not interested in learning. According to Vygotsky, and the social cognitive view of learning we know that children naturally want to learn, it is our society that tells them they are not good enough, smart enough, or able to learn in the way we deem valuable.
How then should we approach instruction? Teachers need to give up the reigns in order to let our children learn. That does not mean that we simply watch our children, but approach instruction with the learner in mind. We should allow them to make decisions and provide choices that enable students to interact with their peers, engage in challenging tasks, and actively work and apply the subject matter. In order for this to occur and be meaningful, teachers need to plan for instruction, create a safe and productive classroom environment, and assess student performance throughout the learning process.