“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is one that is most adaptable to change”. Although this Charles Darwin quote on evolution has been often misrepresented (Darwin Correspondence Project, 2016), the nature of its meaning rings true to our current education system. The quote is one of the most commonly repeated and attributed quotes to one of the most highly recognized scientists in history, giving it reputability beyond question. These same kinds of misrepresentations are true for educational theories.
We’ve been hearing for years how education needs to keep evolving, but many times the evolutionary pedagogical strategies are a mere rebranding of those that have come before. Theories that while given a new and progressive name, tend to lean to the side of traditional beliefs. That was until COVID. For the last year and a half the entire world of education has been forced to adopt evolutionary virtual strategies in order to keep a generation of learners from becoming stagnant in their path of education. These strategies were born out of necessity and because of the nature of the situation which forced students to stay at home offered little variance. This physical separation meant that the only educational environment available was through a computer screen.
Because of this we have come to learn, and begrudgingly to accept, that students don’t need to be in the classroom to be in the class. Although this has presented many obstacles to effective learning, it has opened the way for the possibilities of a parallel curriculum, one that doesn’t focus so much on the content knowledge but more on the knowledge gained by self-efficacy. The knowledge gained about one’s own capabilities not just in acquiring information, but in applying that information to real world experiences promotes greater formation in our future leaders. This parallel curriculum can only take place outside of the classroom.
There is a concerning decline in today’s high school students about the importance of having a purpose in life versus attaining financial wealth (Twenge, Campbell, and Freeman, 2012). In a world where corruption of values brings about tragedy, hate, and social injustice, educators for the next generation must influence these young learners to be leaders for change. This experience can only come when the students participate actively in the “real world” environment and learn what they are capable of achieving.
Another practical outcome of this program helps the student not just focus on their future career, but also compete in the next step on their educational journey. Now that many universities in the United States are moving away from standardized testing to disseminate potential candidates, the student’s portfolio becomes more significant. The difference in extra curricular activities from the traditional clubs and community service and those experiences in the workforce are about not just participating, but accomplishing.
At Stonehill International School, we are working on a comprehensive program that begins in grade 8 and presents these opportunities through graduation. We feel that by introducing the opportunity for students in 8th and 9th grades to apply the “Approaches to Learning” skills outside of the classroom has a greater impact on the value of their learning. We have partnered with Uable, an experiential educational ecosystem that matches students with industry leaders such as Google, Tesla, and others to solve real industry challenges. Through this program, the students will get to experience both their own skills while being introduced to potential career pathways.
The foundation for developing a “roadmap for their future” becomes a “get to” in their educational experience, rather than a “have to”. There is a completely different energy when someone “gets to” versus “has to” do work, the latter allowing one to truly take ownership of the learning and create a greater value of the skills they are learning in school. It becomes not about what they are learning in school but what they are learning about themselves.
This is taken to the next level with our 10th through 12th grade students as they are substituting time in the classroom with time in a workplace. We have met with a group of our parents who are also corporate leaders in the Bangalore community. In this focus group, they too have taken ownership of this program and are collaborating with the school to create opportunities for the students to experience working in an industry of their choice. Every corporate partner is designing a program that they feel would work best for them and the student. Some of the industries include hospitality, retail, commercial property management, online services, sports sciences and NGO’s.
The process will also emulate a real world experience where the students will have to apply and interview for the positions. Initially, they will take a survey allowing them to inventory their strengths, weaknesses, and emotional gratifications. This survey will provide better insight into the industry choices being made available making for a more appropriate placement. During the internship, the student will have a mentor both at the work site and at school allowing for reflection on their work experiences and to develop strategies to employ in order to grow successful in the internship.
Success in these internship programs will take the form of portfolios which contain project accomplishments, supervisorial evaluations, letters of recommendation, and reflections chronicling their workplace experiences. This tangible piece will be used as part of their college portfolio and will exhibit results from real world experiences that will differ from school programs where there is greater empathetic guidance and narratives about the student’s growth. Thus, this will be a more powerful component when competing for placement in universities.
This program can even level the playing field for that competition as there are always those students who stand out academically, but this presents the opportunity for those whose confidence in their skills lies outside of the classroom. Dr. Yong Zhao, currently the Foundation Distinguished Professor in the School of Education at Kansas University, has discussed the difference between the “employee” and the “entrepreneur” student. Where one shines in their ability to learn in a linear environment, the “entrepreneur” student has been encouraged to identify and develop their own unique skills outside of the traditional learning environment. Using the United States as the model of innovation despite the poor standing globally in academic test scores, he promotes this style of education to further develop self driven learners.
While educational leaders have been researching and applying new techniques to develop self driven learners, it is ironic that the pandemic, which has set us back for the last year and a half, has also propelled the opportunity for a much more practical approach. This hybrid model of students sharing their learning time in both the classroom and workplace both benefits the confidence of the learner and provides a greater sense that our future leaders will have a greater purpose as they continue their educational journey toward their pathway of a meaningful career.
Six things Darwin never said – and one he did. Darwin Correspondence Project (2016, November 24). Retrieved on June 8, 2021 from https://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/people/about-darwin/six-things-darwin-never-said#quote1
Twenge, J. M., Campbell, W. K., & Freeman, E. C. (2012, March 5). Generational Differences in Young Adults’ Life Goals, Concern for Others, and Civic Orientation, 1966–2009. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0027408