What standards can we use to create quality teaching and lessons?
It's our human nature to want a quality education for our children and as teachers and schools to know that we are delivering one. A good education is a promise of a better life and, hopefully, even a better world. Yet, as options and access in education expand around the world, so too do our questions about what defines a quality education and high-quality teaching.
Today, arrays of standards are the primary method for ensuring and evaluating quality. Brief, written descriptions of what students are expected to know and be able to do at a specific stage of their education, learning standards frame our thinking about quality education, if not pedagogy. Even these are evolving, however, to keep pace with our changing world with new national standards in the United States like the Common Core State Standards, which are designed to
"build upon the most advanced current thinking about preparing all students for success in college, career, and life."
Yet, as we swim in this sea of standards—and especially as we strive to master all the opportunities of technology and our connected world—the challenge still comes down to how best to empower students to really think for themselves, engage well with others, and own all the other skills and attitudes we know are necessary for their future success and happiness?
A recent talk at INTED2016 (the 10th annual International Technology, Development and Education Conference) by respected educator and technologist Alan November reminded me of quality lessons and learning really means. (If you haven't heard of November, he was one of the very first teachers in the world put a student project online back in 1984. Today, he helps schools, governments and business improve the quality of education through technology.)
Called "The Transformational Six," these essential questions force us to take a hard look at what we think of as innovative teaching in regards to technology, and, I think, can serve as one powerful set of standards for creating quality teaching.
Did the assignment build capacity for critical thinking on the web?
We can't forget our responsibility to prepare students to be critical thinkers in the Age of the Internet. This means learning the discipline of how search engines work and the creativity of designing a powerful query.
Did the assignment develop new lines of inquiry?
With access to the world, there's the opportunity to teach students to ask questions we could never ask in the limited world of paper.
Are there opportunities for students to make their thinking visible?Using tools or exercises to see how a child is thinking - and help him or her to see it too - can be transformational.
Are there opportunities to broaden the perspective of the conversation with authentic audiences from around the world?
Students are living in a global world. Are we really helping them to connect and understand?
Is there an opportunity for students to create a contribution (i.e. is it purposeful work)?Just as we want purpose in our work, so too do students. When we move education into the real world, we can ignite authentic and lasting learning.
Does the assignment demo “best in the world” examples of content and skill?Are we showing students what's possible? Super-star accomplishments in sports and other arenas often inspire us. Why not in school too?
So, how are you doing? We can each begin to innovate with just one lesson and even just one of the above questions, but if we continue to learn ourselves as educators, just as we expect our students to, we'll keep getting better and be able to deliver on the full, inspiring promise of education.
WHAT WOULD YOU ADD TO THE LIST?
If you'd like to watch the whole talk from INTED 2016, you can watch it here.
About Babak Khosravifar
Babak aspires to create a world where students can enjoy learning, excel through an environment that’s personalized to them, become stronger learners and, ultimately, empowered individuals. This leads his drive to unleash the combined potential of technology and education.
Babak, is putting his academic research interests in intelligent tutoring systems, machine learning, game theory and data analysis to work at Mentorina R&D. As co-founder and managing director, he investigates how technology can help create better learners who can excel and enjoy the process throughout their lives. He earned his PhD in Computer Science at Concordia University, and held two post-doctoral fellowships at McGill University.