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Improving Precollege Education: Don’t Just Complain—Do Something Positive

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Is the PreK-12 educational system in your home, school, neighborhood, town/city, county/province, state, country, or world getting better? You probably have opinions on this question. I enjoy talking to adults and children, and getting them to share their opinions of whether PreK-12 education is getting better or worse.

The list home, school, neighborhood, etc. is intended to show the breadth of the question. There are many possible units of change. For example, if you are a parent, you can think about your personal roles in the education of your children—what is going well and what is not going so well? Just that little exercise will give you insights into the difficulties of improving education even on a small scale. And, of course, you can ask that question about your personal lifelong education.

If you are a schoolteacher or teacher’s aide, then surely you routinely ask this question of your classroom or school. You might note than some of your students come to school hungry, that this impedes their learning. Or, you might note that some of your students just don’t pay attention and can hardly wait until they can get on their cell phones again.

Some people respond to my question by citing examples of where they believe children are just not getting as good an education as in the “good old days.” Others present a more balanced response, citing examples of both declines and advances in various aspects of education. Still others present a positive response, and perhaps give examples of the technical prowess of children using Smart Phones, playing computer games, and participating routinely in social networks.

All of that is to be expected. But what I would really like to see is for people to raise the questions such as:

  • How do we define and measure worse and better?
  • Do our definitions support researchability? That is, can we gather credible, valid information that is based on the definitions and that helps to build a foundation for change?
  • Is there widespread agreement on researchable definitions applicable to the unit of change (your home, neighborhood, etc.) that interests and concerns you?
  • To what extent is the research being done, and to what extent are the findings being used to improve education? Both research and effective use of research results take resources, and these resources are limited.

Next, think about the two questions:

  1. Consider yourself as a resource. Ask yourself, “What can I, personally, do to improve those aspects of education that most interest and concern me? What am I doing to extend my capabilities as a change agent by working with/through various stakeholder groups that have interests similar to my own?”
  2. What should “they”—other people, stakeholder groups, government organizations, non-profit and for-profit corporations, and so on be doing? What are you doing and what can you do to influence their decisions?

What You Can Do

Select a unit of change in which you are personally directly involved—such as yourself, your family, your students, or your school. Within that unit of change, explore the types of questions raised above. Think carefully about what you, personally are doing. Work to educate others about the questions, and cultivate their interest and involvement in seeking and implementing answers.

If you are a teacher, you have an excellent and very important opportunity to engage your students. Imagine you and your students working together to pose and explore possible answers, and to implement answers that seem agreeable to you and your students. Can you figure out how to make this part of a term or year long project-based learning activity?

Suggested Readings from IAE

Moursund, D. (4/19/2015). Preparing students for their futures. IAE Blog. Retrieved 5/11/1015 from http://i-a-e.org/iae-blog/entry/preparing-students-for-their-futures.html.

Moursund, D. (3/5//2015). Education for the coming technological singularity. IAE Blog. Retrieved 5/11/2015 from http://i-a-e.org/iae-blog/entry/education-for-the-coming-technological-singularity.html.

Moursund, D. (5/2/2014). Hungry children—America’s shame. IAE Blog. Retrieved 5/11/2015 from http://i-a-e.org/iae-blog/entry/hungry-children-america-s-shame.html.

Moursund, D. & Sylwester, R. (4/10/2015). Education for students’ futures. Eugene, OR: Information Age Education. PDF File - http://i-a-e.org/downloads/free-ebooks-by-dave-moursund/269-education-for-students-futures-1.html. Microsoft Word File - http://i-a-e.org/downloads/free-ebooks-by-dave-moursund/268-education-for-students-futures.html.

Sylwester, R. (October, 2014). Credibility and validity of information. Part 1: Introduction. IAE Newsletter. Retrieved 5/11/2015 from http://i-a-e.org/newsletters/IAE-Newsletter-2014-147.html.

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Monday, 13 July 2020

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