The Future of Smart: How Our Education System Needs to Change to Help All Young People Thrive by Ulcca Joshi Hansen

Part 2 – Present: Shifting Our Gaze

5. From Theory to Practice: The Instructional-Model Framework

  • Ulcca starts by laying out her progressive political stance regarding issues outside of education such as carbon-neutral fuels and extended government support for child care, elder care, and state-run health care for all. She seems to see holistic teaching methods as being aligned with this progressive political stance, but I think you can be for holistic teaching without being as far left on the political spectrum as she is.
  • Next we visit case studies of schools that support holistic learning, many of which are based on Montessori, Steiner, and Krishnamurti models. They feature more integration of the arts, multidisciplinary lessons, practical lessons, teacher and student empowerment, and collaboration. There is always the risk that non-structured lessons become chaotic and that industrial-style leadership will prevent progress as the 2002 NCLB efforts did.
  • If you want a HIL school you need a coherent theoretical model. Feel free to borrow one. It needs to address the developmental needs of students, beliefs about how learning best happens, the skills, knowledge, and dispositions you want to teach, how you will assess learning, and how you will prepare and support adults. Don’t try to bolt new practices onto an existing factory system. You don’t have time and it won’t work.

6. How the Worldview Divide Lives On through Educational Orientations

  • The first is the Conventional Orientation. These schools are modern-day versions of industrial model schools. Their focus is on getting kids ready for standardized tests and college. Individual differences are given little attention. Lessons are often scripted and objective data is seriously analyzed. Discipline may be “zero tolerance” with consequences. High-stakes accountability has pushed education as a whole in the direction of this model.
  • The Whole Child/Innovative Reform Orientation is featured in the bulk of US schools. It essentially bolts solutions onto the industrial model where possible. The add-ons may address social/emotional skills, anti-bullying programs, and project-based efforts. The schools are more flexible in nature, which may result in lower scores on standardized tests. They may also be at the mercy of governmental standards.
  • The last orientation is Human-Centered/Liberatory. It is far more individualized and connected with the real world. There is a focus on developing each student’s unique abilities rather than a single outcome for all. Relationships are key and students are taught to self-regulate rather than being punished when they misbehave. Students have adult advisors they meet with daily in small groups. The schools tend to be smaller. Children have more freedom and autonomy to follow their interests. They may use independent self-paced programs like the Kahn Academy to learn some content. Self-assessments, work products, portfolios, and exhibitions take the place of standardized tests. Many are private but some take the form of alternative public schools. Ranking is typically not used. Each child gets what they need rather than everyone getting the same. School is more likely to resemble real life with its messy, non-linear, ambiguous, and multifaceted nature. The appendix contains a long list of such schools.
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