Future of Learning

Spreading an idea in education: What happens when you start being polite and start getting real?

It’s a problem that has vexed educators: What’s the best way to share a good idea?

The idea of “do more of what works” sounds splendid. Who can disagree with that statement? And it seems like it should be easy enough to accomplish.

But it’s proven to be woefully difficult to replicate successes in education. What works in one school isn’t always a sure-fire bet in another location.

There is an array of pieces to this puzzle. Among them: How do you get teachers on board with doing things differently? Some believe schools must employ strong leaders who create change through brute force. Others favor a more cooperative strategy.



For an example of the latter, Summit Public Schools, a charter network founded in California, shows how it’s working with other schools nationwide – including traditional public schools – to use education technology to improve academic outcomes for students. And if a new survey is any indication, teachers in these schools are actually enjoying the changes. I learned about the results during an interview with leaders from Summit Public Schools last week at SXSWedu, a large education technology conference in Austin, Texas.

Lizzie Choi, a Summit employee who works with partner schools, said that the survey results – collected just four months into the program – are encouraging because they show how ripples of support for this approach to teaching and learning are growing.

“It’s a cultural shift that’s happening,” Choi said.

Among the 19 schools that volunteered to work with Summit Public Schools, 94 percent of teachers polled said “they enjoy working at a personalized learning school,” and 87 percent said they had “already shared some of their personalized learning experiences with other educators,” according to the new survey, which is to be released this week. Students are supportive, too, according to the survey. Nearly seven out of eight students said they believe self-directed learning is a skill that will serve them well in college. And four out of five students said they feel that the new teaching methods helped them to become better at it.

That’s a far from the hue and cry that comes to communities that are forced to confront changes when they are on the brink of disaster. Need proof? See Detroit’s public schools for the latest example.

 

Letters

Nichole Dobo

Nichole Dobo is the senior engagement editor and a writer. Her work has been published in the Los Angeles Times, The Atlantic's online edition, Mind/Shift,… See Archive

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