One of the biggest challenges we continue to face in education is the ‘teaching to the test’ mantra that we too often (whether on purpose or accidentally) seem to get caught up in. We first determine what it is we want kids to learn and then we design the corresponding assessment. Students spend time learning and then they are assessed. In short time unfortunately, much of the information is forgotten and the rate of retention is rather low. In this scenario, education is being done ‘to’ our students rather than ‘with’ our students.
To ensure our kids remember beyond the test, a strong curriculum built around innovation is needed. This type of curriculum has three main components for students: voice, choice and audience. When these three pieces are present in the day-to-day instruction we deliver in our classrooms, we have a much better chance of longer, deeper, and more sustainable retention levels.
Voice: Think about your education... did any of your teachers ask your opinion on the structure of learning or the structure of the assessments in your classes? Most would probably say no. This is where we have a huge opportunity to give our students voice in the learning structures within our classrooms. It’s this voice that creates buy in and support for students and their learning.
Choice: We talk a lot about empowering our students, but it’s not often that we give our students choice in the learning process. Imagine a classroom where students are able to pursue and engage in their interests as it relates to the bigger picture. Obviously there are standards and learning objectives that need to be met, but except for us, the educators, there is nothing preventing our students from addressing these standards as part of something they are interested in learning more about.
Audience: When kids create, write, and design just for their teachers, they make sure it’s good enough for their teachers. Here’s the thing, we don’t want our students doing work that is ‘good enough.’ We want our kids doing work that is out of this world. We want our kids sharing their genius with the world, and to do that we need to give them an authentic and global audience.
So, my challenge for you is to redefine your instructional model and empower your students to be actively involved in THEIR education. At the same time, create ample opportunities for your students to share their genius with the world. If you do this, then kids won’t be learning for a test, they will be learning for their life.