Global Achievement Gap-Attitudes and Myths

In order to even begin the discussion a few “educational myths” need to be exposed.

First and foremost, Rigor means mastery. It is the continual constant accurate application of all that is learned not the addition of more demanding content.

Second, develop a language common to both industry and education. Even though the same words are used they often have different connotations for each of the stakeholders.

Third, recognize that learning how to learn is more necessary than what is learned.

Fourth, ethical behavior, individual responsibility and the ability to function with and within diversity are critical.

Fifth, use cognitive science to challenge our traditional distinctions between:
• head and hand,
• academic and vocational
• knowing and doing,
• abstract and applied knowledge
• education and training; and
• school-based and work-based learning

Sixth, recognize and eliminate commonly held mistakes concerning education and training. Contrary to popular belief:

• Skills are not like building blocks one learns in a specific order each building on the last. In fact human beings-even small children are sense-making problem solving individuals. Failure to involve them at the earliest age in refining problem solving skills creates barriers to learning itself.

• Students are not “blank slates” waiting to be written upon. Most traditional curriculum is based on memorization and analysis of subject matter and does nothing to modify what is already in an individual’s head. As a result, many become adept at taking tests or solving “book problems” and equations but when they encounter real world problems they become confused and unable to apply the book-based theory.

• Students are not empty receptacles into which knowledge is poured. In fact, learning only really occurs when the learner constructs, invents and solves problems.

• Students are rarely able to apply skills and theories learned in isolation without practice in applying them to real situations.

• Although “learning to know, learning to do and their application” are often separated, there is no effective learning or understanding of one kind without the other two.

Finally, all stakeholders must become committed and willing to make “whatever changes are necessary” to assist our youth in becoming productive, effective, successful members of society. The implication for schools is that they must become committed to learning in context and break down the distinctions between knowledge and practice.

This requires re-designing learning and using appropriate contextual methodology for teaching rather than simply applying new technological tools to old methods. Ultimately it requires the merging and cooperative use of resources, leadership, experience and expertise available among diverse stakeholders.