Monday, December 13, 2010

Real Learning is Timeless

For those who think college starts in kindergarten...

...they are wrong. 

Kindergarten starts in kindergarten. 

Essentially, the argument here is between vertical curriculum and horizontal curriculum. Horizontal being stuff the kids care about and need now, and vertical being the stuff adults think the kids will need in the future, but not so much right now. 

In general, I think it is safe to say that school does not balance these well - there is far too much emphasis on vertical curriculum. 

A good enough education concerns itself mostly with preparing for future life - excellent education concerns itself with showing kids that education is timeless - and ultimately, life itself. 

If grade 12 was the only year we compromised and succumbed to the pressures of grading and post-secondary expectations - even I could live with that if the other 11 years were dedicated to just real learning.


  1. A key thing for me is what we define "future life" as for our students. There are many teachers who make reference to this but in very different ways. An example I often hear surrounds the topic if late assignments. Should students be penalized for late assignments? The arguments often go like this: In the 'real world' that employee would be fired if this happened consistently, or another one about someone who is supposed to put on a presentation for out of town guests. You can't simply ask your guests to wait another day and incur additional travel and accommodation costs, let alone the human cost of being out of town yet another day. While I admit that I believe with these statements to a degree, I think there should be some more context and discussion too. I also agree that in schools, we are assessing learning outcomes and not whether a student can get their work done on time. Is it annoying as a classroom teacher to be marking assignments at all different times in the semester? Of course! However, for me, the fact of the matter is students do not get paid to come to school so I am finding it hard to use the idea of 'future workplace' as an argument for many traditional assessment rules. When students actually do go in to the workforce and get paid, that will be the game changer and they will have to learn a whole new set of rules on their own to play that game. For now, the definition of 'future' should be more along the lines of promoting our students to be critical thinkers, problem solvers, experienced with relevant technologies and other skills, and positive contributors to our society. These are the things that can be taken any and everywhere, and be used in their personal and professional lives (vertical curriculum.) Great post Joe!

  2. i think the balance between horizontal and vertical is tied to 'relevance'. When we make students' learning relevant, we can promote the 21C skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, communication, collaboration, digital literacy etc.

    Sometimes we need to let students choose topics they find interesting and engaging as a starting place to facilitate their development of skills.

    Other times we need to let students choose the tools and skills they wish to apply in order to engage them in certain information and content.

    The more we differentiate for our students, the more likely they will find their learning relevant and engage in deeper learning.


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