Our current educational system is continuously challenged to support students and communities while addressing financial disparities and bearing the weight of our future economic drivers through the advancement of innovation. It is time to move past conventional wisdom to address the systemic issues at play.
Ingenuity and creativity are innate in children. What they require is not standardization, but individualization in their classrooms so they can engage their natural intelligence. What they need is their lives to be nurtured to create a personal mission.
Adelle Schade, a teacher for 25 years and the founder of the Science Research Institute (SRI) at Albright College, has analyzed this need. For 10 years, she immersed herself in different research and development environments in Philadelphia, PA, coming to the conclusion that an effective education program needs to accomplish two things: be a synthesis of business, education, and innovation; and embrace students’ individual passions.
This is especially essential in a child’s formative years. Schade states, “the most creative time of your brain is between the 5th and 10th grade, education needs to prepare students for this phase. The education system should be catered to engage children at this stage of their development. We can do this by creating an educational system that fosters passion and creates avenues for innovation and invention in any subject.”
These conclusions led her to found ConvergED, LLC, a revolutionary system encompassing SRI’s philosophy and a novel learning method coined “Total Experience Learning” (TEL). The mission of SRI/TEL is to enable, empower, and advance educational innovation by developing the next generation of leadership. Through experiential learning and critical skill-building, classrooms across the nation will be transformed by these methods.
The Traditional Classroom must be Replaced with a TEL Approach
Test scores and exams drive the current approach in assessing success in education. Momentum to move away from dictating success according to student test scores has been slow and is inconsistent across the nation.
Traditional education lacks the capacity to address the silos that exist between K-12, higher education, and business and industry. This lack of resources emphasizes a disconnect and doesn’t empower or prepare students for work in modern industries.
What education reform truly needs is a novel foundation to cultivate and assess students’ learning on any given topic. It requires a new philosophy built on the SRI’s process of “involving students in their own education, providing a framework for the students to bring their own creativity and ingenuity to their work right from the beginning in the Total Experience Learning method.” Examples of individual student stories range anywhere from needless drug delivery toenvironmental sustainability and emissions.
This means “SRI students in Total Experience Learning classrooms are provided with skills-based and authentic learning experiences that improve their research skills as well as literacy, communication, and entrepreneurial thinking.” With these skills, education not only meets the criteria of well-rounded preparation but also empowers students to combine their passions with innovation and business.
Educational reform begins with creating classrooms that foster a trailblazing spirit in the students themselves.
Lasting Education Reform Begins with Reeducating and Placing Educators at the Forefront
The United States has a top-down approach when it comes to education reform. Politicians implement “popcorn reforms” that often get tested and then discarded when the reforms don’t deliver sweeping results.
Linda Darling-Hammond, Professor of Education at Stanford University knows this experimental approach doesn’t work⏤teachers need to be a part of the reform. When speaking about her book, The Flat World and Education: How America’s Commitment to Equity Will Determine Our Future, she states, “Successful countries build a high-quality education workforce. They receive high-quality preparation, with mentoring, and are provided the time for ongoing professional development.”
Reforms that prioritize educator empowerment, and are built by educators themselves, enable teachers to lead their students in creativity, ingenuity, innovation, provide applicable experience for their future, and address educational disparities across the nation.
This last point is particularly pertinent in education reform. Conventional reforms have not accounted for the lack of development and investment into rural and low-income areas. For example, a study out of the Brookings Institute in Pennsylvania reported only 1.5% of all R&D expenditure didn’t go to Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, or Penn State University.
Adelle Schade’s SRI program and TEL method work to address this inequality. Her program certifies teachers across cities and regions in SRI and TEL procedures so they can build their own SRI institute in unsupported, impoverished, and disenfranchised locations.
This program also allows educators to continue their professional development, as Linda Darling-Hammond labels it, an essential quality to effective educational systems.
Educators are the foundation on which any educational reform is built. It is essential any reform starts with and supports them.
Programs like this transform the education system to exemplify SRI’s motto of “uncovering the genius that resides in every child”.
Students Should be Empowered to Advance Education on their Own Terms
So often, addressing a lack of equity in education is void of student input. Collaboration and inclusion of students in the process are key.
An example of student engagement is Schade’s SRI program. Students can register to gain access to a state-of-the-art lab facility. Through this program, students innovate on their own terms, receive college credit, collaborate with their peers, and advance their education on a path based on their curiosity.
For parents, this means their child receives an education that’s determined by their academic passions. SRI and TEL-trained educators guide instead of assign.
This student-centric SRI/TEL approach combines traditional education with curiosity. Sir Kenneth Robinson, a Professor of Warwick University⏤and knighted for his educational reforms⏤states, “Part of education is learning. And what drives learning is curiosity and collaboration.”
The desire to uncover the potential of every student must be at the heart of education reform. Conventional methods may have failed to support student ingenuity, but impassioned innovators like Linda Darling-Hammond, Adelle Schade, and Sir Kenneth Robinson have challenged this seemingly flawed educational system.
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