What Kind of Students is Your School Producing?

One of my favorite sources for intellectual challenge is the Modern Learners website — a home for provocative content being created and curated by Will Richardson and Bruce Dixon.  This week, I stumbled across a bit from Will that introduced me to the thinking of Seymour Papert — an MIT mathematician and longtime leader in efforts to use digital tools to reimagine learning spaces.

Specifically, Will spotlights a quote that came from a speech given by Papert way back in 1998.

Here it is:

(click here to view quote and image credit on Flickr)

Slide_ChildPower

In one concise statement, Papert neatly summarizes the outcome that our schools should care the most about.

I can’t think of a single parent, principal, policymaker or pundit that would disagree with the notion that successful schooling results in students who know how to act when faced with situations that they haven’t been specifically prepared for.  More importantly, I can’t think of a single student who would struggle in life after learning how to act confidently and competently in the face of uncertainty.

But here’s the hitch:  So little about what we prioritize in schools prepares students for unexpected situations.  Instead, “being prepared” means learning the same sets of basic facts that our parents and grandparents learned.  Our lessons — and the tools that we use to rank and sort both schools and students — almost always emphasize knowing, not doing.

Stew in all of that for a minute:  If producing students who are ready to act regardless of the circumstances really WAS a priority, how would your instructional and assessment practices have to change?

#toughquestion

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Related Radical Reads:

Here’s What We Have to Stop Pretending

Where Have All the Beautiful Questions Gone?

What if Schools Created a Culture of DO instead of a Culture of KNOW?