Can Schools Create a Culture of Learning By Doing?

Ensuring students know academic content is great, but teaching them to do something with it is essential.

What if we had a culture of "do" instead of a culture of "know" in our schools? That was the question posed by sixth-grade language arts teacher Bill Ferriter and three other educators at last weekend’s EduCon, an education innovation conference held in Philadelphia.

Ferriter writes on his blog, The Tempered Radical, that the group came up with the question during a session designed to push educators to dream big and develop ambitious solutions for the problems facing schools. Although knowing academic content is foundational, he writes, students often complain about feeling disconnected from what they’re learning because they’re never given the chance to apply their knowledge in meaningful ways. Models like service learning are proven to boost student engagement and reduce the dropout rate, yet the test-heavy school culture has created an environment where teachers simply cover the curriculum and students regurgitate facts onto a test.

Ferriter says his group realized they’d "have to work to take active steps to redefine almost everything about our schools," in order to create a culture of doing. Teachers would need to shift the philosophy of grading from its current focus "on content mastery" to a higher-order, "focus on demonstration of an ability to apply content in novel situations." The decision on whether to promote a student to the next grade would be based on "the use of artifacts to prove levels of mastery." Outside the classroom, school budget decisions would be less about textbooks and more about funding kids' "opportunities to interact with their worlds."

Each member of Ferriter's team pledged to take steps toward learning by doing in their own classrooms, like introducing "meaningful tasks" into the classroom experience. Ferriter acknowledges that many teachers fear falling behind the teaching schedule if they change their approach, but he says it's worth the risk if it means students might acquire a deeper love of learning because they’re actually applying their knowledge. If we're really going to innovate our way out of the recession, we're going to have to ensure students know how to do something with their education.

Photo via (cc) Flickr user Mark Gstohl

via Barry Schapiro / Twitter

The phrase "stay in your lane" is usually lobbed at celebrities who talk about politics on Twitter by people who disagree with them. People in the sports world will often get a "stick to sports" when they try to have an opinion that lies outside of the field of play.

Keep Reading

The Free the Nipple movement is trying to remove the stigma on women's breasts by making it culturally acceptable and legal for women to go topless in public. But it turns out, Free the Nipple might be fighting on the wrong front and should be focusing on freeing the nipple in a place you'd never expect. Your own home.

A woman in Utah is facing criminal charges for not wearing a shirt in her house, with prosecutors arguing that women's chests are culturally considered lewd.

Keep Reading

In August, the Recording Academy hired their first female CEO, Deborah Dugan. Ten days before the Grammys, Dugan was placed on administrative leave for misconduct allegations after a female employee said Dugan was "abusive" and created a "toxic and intolerable" work environment. However, Dugan says she was actually removed from her position for complaining to human resources about sexual harassment, pay disparities, and conflicts of interest in the award show's nomination process.

Just five days before the Grammys, Dugan filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and her claims are many. Dugan says she was paid less than former CEO Neil Portnow. In 2018, Portnow received criticism for saying women need to "step up" when only two female acts won Grammys. Portnow decided to not renew his contract shortly after. Dugan says she was also asked to hire Portnow as a consultant for $750,000 a year, which she refused to do.

Keep Reading