06 May 2015

What if Students Designed Their Own Education?

Category: Alternative EducationAdmin @ 3:50 pm

Over the years since I graduated from a public high school (long before the Common Core), students have become burdened with an ever-increasing workload in “academic” courses. There are fewer hours left to pursue one’s own interests, if those interests do not happen to fit what the classes require.

In mathematics, which I tutor at the high school level and below, the textbooks move the students along faster and teach more about math than they used to – except that the students I work with cannot hope to keep up without help. First, they need to backtrack. Since math builds on itself, by high school such students are quite lost and frustrated. Many are still struggling with what they did not master in elementary school, particularly fractions, decimals, long division, and ‐ the nemesis of most ‐ story problems. They cannot figure out when to apply which procedure or operation, and the procedures have become more complicated.

Now that I have reawakened the math anxieties of some of you, consider what school could be like if students were in charge of what and how to study. If students were not given work to do, would they do anything worthwhile?

In the 2013 video below, Charles Tsai finds out by spending a week with the Independent Project at Monument Mountain Regional High School in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. This program requires that students do something, but what is up to them:

(Source: “https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RElUmGI5gLc”

How will this affect their mastery of mathematics? My guess is that they will learn as much math as they want to (and maybe a little more by accident). Is that good or bad?

If you would like to read more, here is a link to Luba Vangelova’s informative article, This Is What a Student-Designed School Looks Like (KQED News, Jul. 14, 2014).

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