Tag Archives: Common Core

Skills Based Curriculum

If we are ever going to shift away from an adult based, content heavy curriculum then what should we expect students to learn in schools? I am talking about a system where students are free to study according to their passions and interests. A system of projects designed by students and teachers together. A system that has no bells, no “classes.” The type of school where students drive all aspects of the learning.

I am going to argue that there is a core set of skills that all children should learn. I am also going to argue that this list is enough for all children to be successful. Implicit in this list is that all children are going to learn “how to learn” anything they choose to independently. By independently I do not mean in isolation, but without adult direction. That is each student should know how to research and connect with others who are experts to learn anything that they choose to.

It is a short list and probably each item deserves a separate post to describe what it is and isn’t. Here is my list of the skills that every student should learn:

Reading Students will learn to read all kinds of texts and genres as they are naturally exposed to them through classmates, parents, teachers, and exploring their passions through projects.

Writing Students will learn to write all kinds of texts and genres as they are naturally required to through their projects.

Speaking Students will learn to share their learning publicly developing important communication skills.

Computing Students will learn basic math computations as required by their exploration in projects. “Advanced” math will be learned in context when needed. All students will need an understanding of algebraic thinking and more emphasis should be spent on statistics.

Collaborating Students will learn the social skills of working together with others and how to take on different roles in different situations.

Problem Solving Students will learn to ask questions with depth. Emphasis will be on analyzing and evaluating results, rather than on the solutions.

Critical Thinking Students will learn to look at problems and situations from multiple viewpoints. Students will learn to identify and evaluate bias.

Empathy Students will learn to look at problems from multiple viewpoints and understand and relate to competing views.

This list represents everything that I think students should know how to do. It is absent of any specific “content” but applies to any subject that adults can make up. It is heavy on the 4C’s but intentionally omits creativity because I don’t believe that we need to teach or assess it. Adults just need to allow space and creativity will happen. It is innate in all humans.

What do you think? Anything missing? Unclear? Could this ever be the real national standards in the US or anywhere? Why not?

Don’t put words in my mouth!

Photo Credit: CarbonNYC via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: CarbonNYC via Compfight cc

I was contacted by an organization that promotes teacher advocacy. They wanted me to join them as they represent teachers across the country. They are very connected politically and have some some big money behind them. The pitch was that they would amplify my voice by getting more media exposure to my writings and get my message in front of state and national politicians.

I immediately loved the idea of this. I am passionate about helping make our education system better. I want to see a decrease in testing and standardization with a shift to personalized learning that is student centered. A grassroots organization that promotes teacher voice in the media and among politicians is definitely a need in the U.S.

But of course there was a catch. The “focus” for this year was promoting the Common Core. Ugh. Not a topic that I am a fan of. National curriculum is low on the list of things that I believe will “fix” schools. I really don’t believe “content” is the problem in schools, pedagogy is.

But what really rubbed me wrong is that this organization is branding itself as “teacher voice” but only if we support their agenda. This “grassroots” movement looks strangely like top down strategy that needs some teacher pawns at the bottom.

When you want to LISTEN to my opinions about how we can change education first, then maybe we can talk. I won’t have anyone putting words in my mouth. I have plenty to say by myself, thank you.