Featured Video
This Week in Quality Digest Live
Quality Insider Features
Barbara A. Cleary
Flawed attention to compliance stands in the way of improvement
Evan Miller
Finding the ‘hidden factory’ that produces nothing but waste
Azadeh Shoaibi
Making sense of vast streams of healthcare data
William A. Levinson
There’s no need to rewrite processes to match the new standard
Jeffrey Phillips
Most people are paid to do what they know, not to search for what they don’t

More Features

Quality Insider News
His influence on the methodology can’t be denied
System allocates data center bandwidth more fairly, so no part of a web page lags behind others
Provides even, shadow-free illumination; variable light control adds flexibility
Eastern Michigan University offers program in managing quality and continuous improvement

More News

Charles M. Reigeluth

Quality Insider

Why Our Industrial-Age Schools Are Failing Our Information-Age Kids

Four ways to reboot

Published: Tuesday, July 29, 2014 - 14:38

Despite billions of dollars spent on educational reform since the government report, A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform was published in 1983, more than half of the United State’s high school seniors are not proficient in reading, and 75 percent struggle with math, according to the recently released National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).

Clearly, the current approaches to educational reform are failing. The problem is that major aspects of our educational system were devised to meet the societal needs of a bygone era.

We need to change the paradigm. We need to move from Industrial Age “factory model schools” to accommodate and reflect Information Age needs and realities.

The Industrial Age in the United States, roughly 1830 to 1960, was shaped by machinery and mass production. Many jobs moved from farms to factories, which required workers—and therefore students—who would follow instructions and endure repetitive, boring tasks.

We didn’t need to educate many people to high levels, so Industrial Age schools sorted students, promoting the few needed for managerial and professional work, and demoting the many needed for the assembly lines. Today, knowledge work is more common than manual labor, and our systems are far more complex. All adults need a higher degree of knowledge just to function in society, so we can no longer afford a system that is designed to leave many children behind.

Here are four Industrial Age educational artifacts and how we can update them for the Information Age:

Time-based student progress. Currently, students in a class move on together to the next topic according to the school calendar, regardless of whether they have learned the current material. Slower students accumulate learning gaps that make it more difficult for them to master related material in the future, virtually condemning them to flunk out. The system is designed to leave many children behind.

A paradigm truly designed to leave no child behind would allow each student to move on as soon as he or she has learned the current material, and no sooner. This requires “personalized learning’’ and “learner-centered instruction” that is both high-tech and high-touch.

Standardized and other broad tests. Rather than evaluating a student based on how much he or she has learned in a certain amount of time, such as a nine-week period, each student should be evaluated to determine when the material has been learned, so we know when the student is ready to move on. This is called “criterion-referenced assessment,” a different paradigm from “norm-referenced assessment.”

A big test with 20 different topics, like we use now, shows only how much a student knows compared to other students. In the Information Age paradigm, all students will be expected to finish learning whatever they undertake to learn. Like a Boy Scout working on a badge, each student continues to work until the material is mastered. Assessments, then, are incremental and cover a single competency, or a small set of competencies. They certify mastery while also helping guide learning by showing students what they need to continue working on.

The traditional grading system. The traditional grading system indicates how well a student performed compared to the other students in a class—a tool that is only effective in sorting students. It’s not an effective way to guide and ensure individual student learning.

Rather than achievement reflected as grades on a report card, it would be reflected as lists of skills and concepts that the student has mastered.

Locking students into grades. Grade levels are incompatible with the Information Age model because students learn at different rates and become ready to move on to different material at different times. Grade levels are a key feature of the time-based, sorting-focused paradigm that served us well during the Industrial Age, but are detrimental to meeting Information Age educational needs. Instead, group students into similar developmental levels, which typically span three to four years.

Grouping developmentally, rather than based on age or rigid levels of content learning, accounts for the different rates at which children develop socially and emotionally. Children can remain in their social-emotional peer group while working on projects typically tackled by students of a higher or lower age.

Discuss

About The Author

Charles M. Reigeluth’s picture

Charles M. Reigeluth

Charles M. Reigeluth is a distinguished educational researcher who focuses on paradigm change in education. He has a B.A. in economics from Harvard University, and a Ph.D. in instructional psychology from Brigham Young University. He was a professor at the Instructional Systems Technology Department at Indiana University, and is a former chairman of the department. His new book, “Reinventing Schools,” (www.reigeluth.net), advocates and chronicles a national paradigm change in K-12 education. He offers presentations and consulting on this topic.

Comments

You should be a politician.

You should be a politician. You have the solution to a problem but no way to implement or fund it. It would be interesting to know how many years experience you have teaching in a K-12 school system. A lot of people are quick to blame the teachers for all the problems in our public education system. When in fact the majority of school teachers are highly qualified, dedicated professionals who are doing their best to educate students while keeping up with state and federal programs, testing, and paperwork.

 

Re:Why Our Industrial-Age Schools Are Failing Our Information-Ag

Now the tricky almost impossible part...selling this to the teachers unions.....