Saturday, April 11, 2015

Steps to Create Innovators

How do we create innovators among our students? As I read Tony Wagner’s book, I am compelled not to wait until I finish it before sharing. My initial thoughts about creating student innovators revolve around school structure, curriculum, and instructional practices.
                  I have long believed that the age-based placement of students is an archaic throwback to the age of mass production industry. We place students in classes by age knowing full well that students arrive in kindergarten with vastly different experiences, skills, and readiness for formal education. We then spend the next thirteen years trying to catch students up or having others wait while implicitly (or explicitly) communicating that some students are not as good as others. The system assumes that students should not be mixed by age even though the differences in age within group approach 20% of student’s life at age five.
                  Instead we should consider grouping students by age spans and have clear descriptors of student skills, abilities, and knowledge at the end of such periods of time. Roughly, I propose grouping students by ages 5-9, 10-14, and 15-18. That coincides with grades K-3, 4-8, and 9-12. A personalized learning program would be implemented that emphasizes student choice and self-assessment. Each grade span would have an overall focus.  Ages 5-9 would focus on discovery, experimentation, and literacy development. Ages 10-14 would focus on self-awareness, experimentation, and early application. Finally, ages 15-18 would focus on application and innovation. These are general emphases that are not mutually exclusive between the age groups.
                  Curriculum will be more integrated, problem-based, and experiential. Students will receive regular formative assessment as they develop their self-assessment skills. The personalized learning program would allow students to proceed from where they currently are rather than wait for others. Students needing more time would receive that differentiated support but expected to reach the exit outcomes for their grade span. Every effort would be made for all children to be ready for the next grade span.
                  Instruction will emphasize student engagement. Just-in-time instruction would include short lessons and plenty of time to interact with new information to assimilate new learning. Formative assessments would commonly occur that would include the student in evaluating progress.
                  To be contiued as the incremental and disruptive innovations surface….