5 Ways K-12 Educators Can Reshape the College Classroom

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photo credit: pennstatenews via photopin cc
photo credit: pennstatenews via photopin cc

During a keynote address at a school in Ohio, I shared the story of how I completely rebuilt myself as a teacher. Based on my book, Role Reversal, the presentation illustrates the outdated methods I used for far too long:

  • lecture
  • worksheets
  • homework
  • multiple choice tests
  • number and letter grades

This is followed by an explanation of how I spent a summer reflecting on a particularly bad school year and researching ways to help students become enthusiastic independent learners. These helped me turn my classroom into what I call a Results Only Learning Environment. The ROLE is composed of:

  • brief, interactive lessons
  • collaboration
  • yearlong projects
  • mobile learning
  • social media integration
  • elimination of traditional homework
  • and narrative feedback in lieu of number and letter grades

One inquisitive attendee shared that he loves and attempts to create a student-centered, results-only classroom. However, he emphasized, our current education system makes it difficult to employ these methods, because colleges continue to create traditional classroom settings, governed by the previously mentioned archaic strategies. So, how can we prepare students for today’s colleges, if we create a classroom that is the polar opposite of what they’ll likely see when they graduate?

The answer to this important question is enveloped in a grass roots movement. One that will force colleges to change how they educate.

5 ways to reshape the college classroom
  1. Don’t allow the college tail to wag the K-12 dog: Educators must not plan instruction, based on some ill-fated notion of college and career readiness. We have to create an environment that, first and foremost, makes kids love learning.
  2. Coach students early about proper college selection: Many learners zero in on schools they believe, likely based on a false pre-conceived idea, will position them for a particular career. Teachers and counselors are their most important mentors in this case (yes, even more important than parents). Remind them that they are independent learners and need a school that will embrace that approach.
  3. Be the voice of the movement: Reach out to college decision-makers and explain how you and your school approach education. Imagine if K-12 educators started inundating college presidents and professors with emails, explaining how education is changing. Tell them that they are missing many amazing students, because they rely too heavily on SAT scores and GPAs. Suggest alternative ways to admit students (more on this in a future post).
  4. Spread the word: Write blogs and create Facebook pages and Twitter accounts that trumpet student-centered learning. Write about the amazing conversations you’re having with kids about being independent learners and how they flourish, when they collaborate and use mobile devices, web tools and social networks in the classroom. Thousands of amazing educators are doing this, but the movement needs more. Talk to parents; inspire them to join the fight.
  5. Know that change is inevitable: The Common Core, like No Child Left Behind and other ill-conceived reform programs, will fail. Measuring teachers against test scores will fail. Testing, homework and grades will fail. They’ll fail, because they don’t work, and educators realize this. If educators across the country change how they teach, colleges will be forced to change, too.

Which of these do you see as the biggest obstacle? Be sure to weigh in on this important issue in our comment section below.

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Mark Barnes is the Founder of Times 10 Publications, which produces the popular Hack Learning Series, The uNseries, and other books from some of education's most reputable teachers and leaders. Barnes presents internationally on assessment, connected education, and Hack Learning. Connect with @markbarnes19 on Twitter.

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