Be a Forward Thinker: Build the Future

B is for Being Purposeful

What is the purpose of school?  What is the intended outcome?

In my mind, AJ Juliani said it best:            AJ

Our world continues to change at lightning speed! We need to help each of our students learn how to prepare themselves for jobs and situations that don’t even exist yet.  With unlimited information at our fingertips on the internet, we need to teach students valuable lifetime skills such as critical thinking, creative thinking, and problem solving. Which information can be trusted? How can I apply and adapt the information in innovative ways to produce unique and improved results? Which new ideas could revolutionize our society? How can I make a difference?

Traditionally, students have not been allowed to make many decisions about what they learn, how they learn, and how they show evidence that they have mastered the content. Fortunately, this paradigm is slowly shifting towards increased student input and control as personalized learning has become the goal of many school districts. True personalized learning means that students are the drivers of their educations. Goals and standards still remain the focus for every student, but more control is given to students in deciding how best to master the concepts and the most effective method for each of them to show evidence of mastery.

This concept is radically different from what students are used to. Many students will require significant collaboration with their teachers as they assume more responsibility for their own learning. But it definitely needs to happen. Teachers need to guide the students in building a strong foundation of skills and knowledge so that students are prepared to take charge of their choices, their education, and their future.

Teaching with a purpose also means that our students are given the chance to apply what they are learning to real life situations. Teachers need to contemplate how what they are teaching will be useful in the careers and lives of their students. For example, many districts have turned to online math programs as a tool to help personalize the pace and content of the math curriculum for each student. These programs are effective at teaching the concepts and skills. However,  that is not enough. Students should also be required to apply the skills they have learned to real life situations to prove that they understand how to use the math. After all, the reason we learn math is to apply it in real life. Let’s be sure the students are not working too quickly through the material that they will not be able to retain the concepts long term or will not able to apply the skills they have learned.

Intellectually and academically gifted students have the capacity to learn and apply information very quickly. These students are now able to finish required curriculum in a much shorter time frame, which is a huge relief for them. They do not need as much repetition for mastery of concepts and skills. This should result in additional opportunities for true personalized learning. Once course requirements have been successfully met, these children should be allowed and encouraged to create a plan, a deep dive into topics they are interested in learning more about. This plan should be comprehensive and include:

1. The desired goal/outcome of the study or project
2. Proposed timeline
3. Resources 
4. How evidence will be demonstrated
5. Success criteria
6. How conclusions, connections, and/or next steps will be shared

Students identified in creativity, visual/performing arts, or leadership are also able to create a learning plan. These students may decide to create art, music, poetry, service learning projects, etc. It is student driven! I am excited about the possibilities.

The opportunity to create a personalized learning plan may also clarify career choices for our students.  They may discover which professions pathexcite them, or they may find that their original career choice isn’t really for them after all. How valuable is that? Let’s give students the opportunity to explore and discover career paths before they apply for higher education. The experience will help them decide if college is truly for them, where to send college applications, and which degrees to pursue. It could save time and a ton of money because students would not have to wait until college to seek and find their passion.


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