First one through the wall always gets bloodied, always!
There is an analogy between baseball and education in our public schools. Here it is:
“I know you’ve taken it in the teeth out there, but the first guy through the wall — it always gets bloody. Always. It’s the threat of not just the way of doing business, but in their minds, it’s threatening the game. But really what it’s threatening is their livelihoods. It’s threatening their jobs. It’s threatening the way that they do things. And every time that happens, whether it’s the government or a way of doing business or whatever it is, the people who are holding the reins — have their hands on the switch — they go batty … crazy.” — Boston Red Sox owner John Henry in Moneyball.
Education in our public schools, now in the 21st century, needs to transcend into a new paradigm preparing students for challenges associated with new realities of a dynamically changing world. I cannot stress enough that given how educators approach pedagogically the creation of learning environments for our kids, will eventually determine the economic, political and social viability of our world into this century.
The story of Billy Bean and his commitment to a new way of producing a viable baseball team has parallel analogies to teachers’ commitment to producing a viable educational experience for students in their classes. The inequity in our nations’ education system which now resembles an apartheid system of education, can be seriously upended through the creation of learning environments that produce, inquisitive and evidence-based inquiry experiences for our children.
Education in our public school is not about processing students through the education system to get them to graduate, it is about the learning process taking place for each student EVERYDAY. Working within conceptual silos and parceling knowledge out in bits and elemental pieces is not addressing the needs of students in this century. Cross disciplinary and engaging real-world activities worth learning are central to the development of students’ cognitive abilities.
As an educator in science with over 20 plus years teaching, physics, chemistry and physical science I am not only an advocate for these new models of learning, but I bring to fruition, in my classrooms, learning experiences that are based upon students becoming deeply involved with project-based learning.
One of my projects called, The Earth Stewardship Project, provides students with opportunities to develop needed skills and abilities that successfully address challenges they face in school and in life. I believe that an education system tailored toward the development of cognitive abilities would help students make sound judge, predict outcomes and engage in thoughtful experimentation. Increased cognitive abilities allow students to design rational explanations of causation from observing occurrences and students work effectively in teams share their experiences, knowledge and understanding, while expressing their beliefs to an audience.
Without opportunities to develop as a whole person and as a cognitive learner through project-based models for learning, the learning experience gets erased in short term memory and productive gains toward showing performance are lost.
Masters of the current conceptual silos (chemistry, physics and biology) continue to advocate for adherence to conventional approaches of learning, which include elemental and piece meal aspects of knowledge and understanding. Students assemble and build upon logical arguments that lead to comprehension, but the idea of usefulness and application to the bigger scheme of things always seem to fall short in these science disciplines.
A baseball metaphor illustration would show a person learning the rules and skills of the game of baseball, but never allowed to fully participate in a real game or even a scrimmage! Without such an opportunity to play, then how does a person come to fully understand his or her level of competency? These learning experience for students become an uninspiring exercise as students are denied opportunity to perform.
My avocation for these changes in education to help our students meet 21st century challenges is often met with skepticism, consternation and disinterest. Efforts by progressive thinking educators to break the current learning mold and strike out in a manner of delivering learning experiences (project-based models of learning) that more clearly address 21st century skills and abilities continues to becoming a focal point of contention in education today.