The traditional model of schooling is over 100 years old and was originally designed to fit the needs of an industrial society. It is a familiar model for many of us who grew up with it, but it no longer fully meets the changing needs of societies around the world. This is an exciting time in the field of education as schools re-invent themselves and evaluate new research about what is most effective. Academia Cotopaxi has joined several global organizations engaged in re-defining a contemporary approach to education.
Here are some of the critical shifts that Academia Cotopaxi is making over the next few years.
New Definition of Learning:
In the traditional model of schooling, the focus was on coverage of a very full curriculum with tests and final exams to demonstrate learning. Teachers were responsible for teaching lessons and students were expected to learn. We now know that learning is a process in which the student becomes engaged, actively makes connections to prior knowledge, practices new skills, and reflects on his or her learning in a continuous cycle. Far from a static model in which the teacher fills the learner’s empty brain, we take a more constructivist approach, viewing students as active participants in the process.
In alliance with the Common Ground Collaborative (CGC) we have adapted the following definitions of learning:
We believe that learning leads to demonstrable conceptual understanding, competencies, and character:
1. Conceptual Learning is happening when students are:
- Connecting new knowledge to prior understanding and to important concepts.
- Constructing and re-constructing theories of how things work and why things are the way they are.
- Testing their evolving theories in different contexts to refine them so they have increased explanatory power and to see when, where and how they apply.
2. Competency Learning is happening when students are:
- Deconstructing expert performance and comparing it with their own.
- Identifying the adjustments they need to make.
- Practicing a skill in order to refine it and make it increasingly automatic.
3. Character Learning is happening when students are:
- Considering what particular dispositions and values would ‘look like’ when applied in specific authentic contexts.
- Acting as a result of these considerations.
- Reflecting on the effects of these actions.
A Whole Child Approach:
One of the important understandings of educators today is the value of a whole child approach to education. While academic achievement is always a priority, schools must be places that attend to the multiple needs of our students. Academia Cotopaxi has joined ASCD’s Whole Child Initiative in an effort to change the focus on narrowly defined academic achievement to a focus on the long term development and success of our students. As such, our programs promote the following tenets:
- Students must be healthy – Students do better in school when they are emotionally and physically healthy.
- Students must be safe – Feeling safe at school translates into higher academic achievement, increased well-being, and greater engagement.
- Students must be engaged – To learn at their best, students must be engaged and motivated. Students who feel both valued by adults and a part of their schools perform better academically and also have more positive social attitudes, values, and behavior.
- Students must be supported – Students in supportive schools who have caring adults who take a personal interest in them and in their success are more likely to perform better academically which in turn prevents a host of negative behavior patterns.
- Students must be challenged – Students need a curriculum that challenges them to work harder and to prepare for success in college and in a 21st century global environment. Students who take responsibility for their own learning are more likely to be successful life-long learners.
The New Literacies:
Today’s fast-paced global world requires different skills than in the past. What it means to be an educated person in today’s world is not quite the same as it was 100, 50, or even just 25 years ago. Here are what are being called the new literacies:
- Digital literacy and Media literacy. Being competent users of technology, able to locate, organize, understand, and evaluate information using digital technology, able to responsibly use digital tools, and able to flexibly navigate a continuously changing digital world. In addition, experience with various media texts and the ability to understand, analyze, critique and create media of their own.
- Global literacy. Global awareness about the interconnectedness of the world today, and the ability to learn from, work collaboratively with, and communicate effectively with people from diverse cultures, backgrounds, religions and lifestyles.
- Critical Thinking and Problem Solving skills; Communication and Collaboration skills; Creativity and Innovation skills. While these skills were also valued 100 years ago, what is new in today’s world is the global context in which these skills are used, as well as the variety of digital tools and social media in which they are practiced. As well, the particular habits and attitudes that cultivate such skills are important precursors to learning these skills – qualities such as perseverance and grit, curiosity, independent thinking, compassion towards others, social responsibility, and the courage to do what is right.