Skip to main content

Learning that Matters

Originally posted on Fractus Learning - 5.3.16

“Today we speak casually of lifelong learning, but in a few decades, it will likely be so much the norm as hardly to require its own label.” - David Perkins


You’re an educator with your finger on the pulse of what’s relevant to teaching and school. Being well read, you know that educational thought leaders are focusing recent dialogue on learning. Schools have always been places of learning, but few can deny the impact the Internet has on a person’s ability to learn whatever they want, whenever they want. Let’s have some fun by responding with the first word that pops into your mind.


Fill in the blank to complete the following phrase; ______________________ learning.


The possible answers are numerous, aren’t they? Is your response included in the table below?


Authentic
Problem-based
Project-based
Individualized
Personalized
Cooperative
Flipped
Mastery
Community-based
Differentiated
Lifelong
Blended
Active
Social
Self-directed
Self-determined


As you reflect upon your K-12 education, what learning has provided a return on investment? What learning matters to you presently? David Perkins, in his book, Future Wise: Educating Our Children for a Changing World, defines lifeworthy learning as learning that matters to the learner; presently and for years to come. “Why do we need to know this?”, could be taken as a disrespectful challenge, or it could be an honest assessment of relevancy.

Perkins suggests lifeworthy learning is grounded in significant understandings; big questions that follow us and keep us awake at night. Big understandings are overarching themes that have a lasting impact. They are substantiated by an opportunity for application, gaining personal insight, informing our actions, and shaping ethical perspective. Perkins believes educating for the unknown is the key to transforming what constitutes meaningful learning in school.


“The agenda of education should not just be passing along the contents of already open boxes but fostering curiosity for those still unopened or barely cracked open. (Perkins, D. 2014)


Will Richardson says, “Curriculum is our best guess about what things should be learned in school.” How do we determine what learning matters? An important step is to have dialogue identifying learning undeserving of the lifeworthy label. Raise your hand if you remember the quadratic formula from your K-12 school experience. Notice that I didn’t ask if you learned the quadratic formula because that would suggest a bigger understanding than just remembering.


Keep your hand up if you’ve used the quadratic formula personally or professionally within the past week, past month, or past decade. Since there is no return on the initial investment, the quadratic formula, for most individuals, falls into what Perkins calls, the relevance gap. For most of us, the quadratic formula doesn’t matter in our daily lives. What would happen to the traditional curriculum if we were more attentive to the relevance gap than the often-discussed achievement gap?


Personal and professional relevance is driving modern learning in the workplace. Jane Hart is an expert in the area of workplace learning. She recently posted a checklist of twenty personal learning activities that support modern professional learning approaches. Her recommendations include; adopting a learner’s mindset, building a robust network that supports connected learning, identifying learning goals and evidence of growth, and contributing to learning teams. (Jane Hart, 2016)
Although most K-12 schools still follow a traditional curriculum, Perkins has identified six trends that are beginning to influence education policy. He calls these patterns “beyonds.”


  • Beyond content to current skills and competencies
  • Beyond local to global perspective, problems, and studies
  • Beyond topics to content supporting thought and action
  • Beyond traditional disciplines to extended themes
  • Beyond discrete disciplines to interdisciplinary issues and problems
  • Beyond academic engagement to personal choice, significance, commitment, and passion


Reimagining education means making lifeworthy learning a curricular priority. Perkins recommends keeping the dialogue positive and productive by identifying themes that generate great understandings. Start by asking what is important now and likely to be important in the future. No one can accurately predict the future but identifying trends and educating for the unknown moves learning towards greater relevance. In addition to igniting lifelong learning, we are at least better prepared for the unsolicited, “why do we have to learn this?”.

Related Reading


"20 Ways to Prepare Yourself for Modern Workplace Learning." - Jane Hart

Future Wise: Educating Our Children for a Changing World - David N. Perkins

"The Future of Work: Trends and Toolsets."  - Doug Belshaw

The "Achievement Gap" vs. The "Relevance Gap" - Will Richardson



photo credit: The school.. via photopin (license)

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Grammarly Writing Hacks for Better Blogging

Writing is learning. It's taken me about thirty years to realize the metacognitive power of written expression, the same amount of time it took for me to recognize that my writing skills suck. Apparently, time in composition class was spent daydreaming and making silly faces at girls. Today, each post is an exercise of will power, unlearning and relearning prepositional phrases, comma usage, and when to use the ever-popular semicolon. Two hundred posts into my blogging adventure I've picked up a few tricks that add efficiency to my writing, things that make me appear smarter than I really am.


Freelance writer, Jennie Cromie, writing for ProBlogger.net, identifies five ways blogging can make you a better writer. Discover your voiceBuild social connectionsAcquire valuable feedbackBecome self-disciplinedWrite faster and more efficiently
Writing with intent to learn is the mindset to lead with. Using the right tools permits scatterbrains like me to focus on the message rather than un…

To Email, or Not

Should current students learn how to use email?


As someone who celebrates a clean email inbox about once every five years, I found it interesting that the topic of student email usage was on the agenda of our recent high school leadership meeting. The focus of this brief conversation concentrated on these questions.



How can we get students to utilize their school email account better? Should we be teaching students how to communicate with email?When and where should email usage skills be taught? Who's responsibility is this?Why do we want kids to check their email? Those around the conference room table agreed with the importance of students checking their email to stay informed about upcoming events and opportunities. Others mentioned it as being an important part of "digital executive functioning." Time was running short when someone said, "Kids don't use email."

This brief statement sent my mind scurrying in several simultaneous directions. 

First, thinking …