Education should seek to bring its subjects to the perfection of their moral, intellectual and physical nature, in order that they may be of the greatest possible use to themselves and others – Emma Hart Willard 1787-1870
Throughout my college experience, I was constantly aware that the focus of my classroom experience was all about the content and not about the people who were present. If I decided not to show up, the class would stay the same. On the other hand, if the content didn’t show up (maybe due to a computer malfunction), everything about the class would be different. In contrast, the learning I did outside of the classroom was centered around my interest, driven by my curiosity, and dedicated to my development as the individual. I had expected formal education to support this natural process of human development, but it mostly seemed to place all kinds of barriers in the way of learning that might impact my life.
Formal Education is Not Producing the Intended Results!
- A study of reading habits by the national endowment for the arts recognized that a huge percentage of students stop reading after graduation, and that reading skills overall have declined to the detriment of the American society and economy. – To Read or Not to Read: A Question of National Consequence
- At least half of graduates surveyed by the Accenture College Graduate Employment Research consider themselves under-employed and are “looking for more of a “me” experience, where their passions will be acknowledged and their career path customized to their interests.” Do they get trained for this at university?
- The Cooperative Institutional Research Program (CIRP) at UCLA reported in a 2012 study of American Freshman that 87.9 % of student surveyed reported going to college “to be able to get a better job.”
- The Chronicle of Higher Education pointed with irony to a study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which reported more than 300,000 waiters and waitresses with college degrees alongside nearly 17 million other ‘educated’ Americans whose jobs do not require a degree.
Obviously, Something Is Not Working!
Formal education is not producing the outcome that students expect and need. IDEO, a non-profit organization dedicated to solving global problems through a Human-Centered design process suggests that part of the problem is a solution that is not designed for the people who need it. This is especially an issue for “non-homogenous” individuals or minorities (Brookfield, 2013). Smith & Ragan (1999) agree, citing examples of teachers who created instruction materials and products that did not resonate with their students. Creativity must be coupled with a human element of empathy in order to produce results that work!
Education systems are not needed for the mastery of content, but for the mastery of the individual who must use it and further its development. The center of the classroom experience must shift from the INFORMation of individuals, to the individuals inFORMATION. The following mission statement of Yale College makes clear the human objectives of education around which its experience should be developed:
The mission of Yale College is to seek exceptionally promising students of all backgrounds from across the nation and around the world and to educate them, through mental discipline and social experience, to develop their intellectual, moral, civic, and creative capacities to the fullest. The aim of this education is the cultivation of citizens with a rich awareness of our heritage to lead and serve in every sphere of human activity. –http://yalecollege.yale.edu/yale-college-mission
A Closer Look at Content-Centered vs Human-Centered Learning
The proposed shift from content-centered learning to Human-Centered Learning is not a new concept. It is informed and developed by multiple learning theories and and key educational leaders from a diverse range of perspectives (e.g. Maria Montessori, George Siemens, Howard Gardner, Sugata Mitra, Jean Piaget, Lev Vygotsky, Albert Bandura, Sir Ken Robinson, Barry Zimmerman, Stephen Brookfield, Paulo Friere, Benjamin Bloom, and others).
Learn more about the educators and theories that inform the idea of Human-Centered Learning
The Five Learning Fluencies
In order to support the implementation of a Human-Centered Learning model, I have focused much of my academic work on exploring the way in which instruction could be changed to account for what I had discovered in the theories represented above. The first step in my process was to re-think assessment in a way that could account for individuality while at the same time holding students accountable for progress (A Multi-Dimentional Model of Assessment). This was followed by further digging into what skills and training were influential for student success in an academic environment (Behind the Screens). I discovered and tested a taxonomy of 5 different skill categories identified by the literature as essential to creating a successful lifelong learner. These are introduced in the following study, explored in the context of technology, and then tested for their potential to level the academic playing field in a survey research study (The Impact of Learning Fluency on the Achievement Gap).
I became interested in this leveling of the academic playing field for two reasons. First, I recognized the advantage that I had over other students simply because of certain skill sets I had enjoyed both time and training to develop. Second, I had become sick of the way in which education had become a sorting machine producing both an academic elite and a debt-ridden subculture. The problems identified in the opening section also drove this as I came to recognize the issue of millenial entitlement and dissatisfaction. My generation of students has been trained how to pass tests, but life is about much more than this. From conversations with students and teachers, I knew that these two groups had recognized the problem and would be prepared to embrace a solution like the one I had designed.
However, I knew that it would be difficult to begin a process of change at the organizational level. Where will students receive the education they need to become confident co-creators of knowledge, society, culture, economy, and life? I am developing the 5 learning fluencies as a starting point, but the long-term goal of this website is to support the creation of a new model of formalized learning: Elyseum Hall. This type of academic institution will be dedicated to the principles of Human-Centered Learning using INFORMation to shape the individuals inFORMATION.
The model for Elyseum Hall can be viewed in its early stages of development in the ‘About’ section of the website. There you can also learn more about my academic history and what I am looking for in a PhD program to continue researching this concept. To express your interest in support or collaboration with this website or ongoing development of Human-Centered Learning, please contact me here.