Evolution of Education
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August 11, 2009
According to Thomas Frey (2007), Executive Director and Senior Futurist at the DaVinci Institute, the pace of change is mandating that we produce a faster, smarter, better grade of human being. Current education systems are preventing that from happening. Future education systems will be unleashed with the advent of a standardized rapid courseware-builder and a singe point global distribution system. Frey sees a radical shift beginning in the world of education within two years ??“ which would be 2009.
Evolution of Curriculums
Education has traditionally consisted of the two fundamental elements of teaching and learning, with a heavy emphasis on teaching. Throughout history, the transfer of information from the teacher to the learner has been done on a person-to-person basis. A teacher stands in front of a room and imparts the information for a student to learn. Because this approach requires the teacher to be an expert on every topic that they teach, this is referred to as the ???sage on stage??? form of education (Frey, 2007, p.3).
According to Frey (2007), a teacher-dependent education system is time-dependent, location-dependent, and situation-dependent. The teachers act as a control valve, turning on or off the flow of information. The education system of the future will undergo a transition from heavy emphasis on teaching to a heavy emphasis on learning. Experts will create the courseware and the students will learn anytime or anywhere at a pace that is comfortable for them, learning about topics that they are interested in. In the future, teachers will transition from topic experts to a role in which they act more as guides and coaches.
Current Global Trends
With many higher education institutions placing an emphasis on outcomes as a standard of learning, it becomes increasingly important to ensure that all students have access to effective and diverse teaching and learning environments. Teachers at this level must fully understand adult learning theories and the influencing factors to learning. Egan (1990) wrote that helping is an educational process ???whose goal is learning (p. 6).” How students build learning and the most efficient way to help them learn is something educational psychologists have debated for many years (Ormrod, 2008).
One area of adult learning that is commonly discussed is the advantages of constructivism and guided instruction in opposition to direct instruction. Most theorists define constructivism as a process by which learners use prior knowledge to help them build new knowledge (Brumer, 1966). Kirschner, Sweller and Clark (2006) define constructivist approaches as those which require the learner to create knowledge on his or her own. Alternatively, direct instruction provides the learner with explicit instruction and guidance from the teacher. This is particularly useful in an environment where the end result is static and there is no room for discussion or situational inferences.
In the late 1940??™s, Ralph Tyler published his classic text on curriculum development. It was organized around four questions:
1. What educational purposes should the school seek to attain
2. How can learning experiences that are likely to be useful in attaining these objectives be selected
3. How can learning experiences be organized for effective instruction
4. How can the effectiveness of learning experiences be evaluated
As this theory was implemented in the 1950??™s and 60??™s, behavioral objectives provided the underpinning of its design, and the success or failure of the curriculum was based on pre-defined changes in student behaviors. The assumption was that student outcomes ??“ at least those that matter ??“ could and should be measured. The result was that in order to measure the behaviors, tasks were broken down into smaller and smaller parts, resulting in tasks that lost their authenticity or meaningfulness.
Tyler??™s principles were the accepted approach to curriculum development for almost 30 years, and they guide the essential questions of curriculum development today, though they now are applied to newer ideas and considerations that extend or reinterpret his principles.
Future Predictions for Education
In response to the product approach advocated by Tyler, came what is known as the process approach. This approach is most associated with the work of Lawrence Stenhouse (1974), who advocated principles for selecting content, developing teaching strategies, sequencing learning experiences, and assessing student strengths and weaknesses with an emphasis on empiricism. A process curriculum was designed to be not an outline to be followed but a proposal to be tested. Gone were the behavioral objectives and tight hierarchical learning tasks.
More recently there has been an emphasis on the context of curriculum and the notion that curriculum as a social process in which personal interactions with the learning environment takes on considerable significance.
An article by Knight (2001) provides a convincing argument for the superiority of a process approach to curriculum development in higher education by outlining problems with an ???outcomes-led rational approach??? to curriculum planning. Knight??™s major point is not to advocate one approach over another, but to stress the necessity of coherence in a curriculum. Contending that it is possible to provide coherence and progression in a process curriculum as well as in a product curriculum, he writes, ???a good curriculum would plan for learning to take place through communities of practice in which group work and peer evaluation are normal, interpersonal contact is common and networks of engagement are extensive (Howard, 2007, p. 3).
According to Judith Howard (2007), regardless of the theoretical orientation or practical perspective, curriculum writers emphasis the importance of curricular coherence. The concept is simple, hearkening back to Bruner and others before him, who called for revisiting important ideas again and again in order to deepen understanding and encourage transfer. At the university level, where we have major fields of study that encompass a collection of courses, we have the opportunity to design a coherent curriculum. We are in a position to craft a series of courses, in whatever form, that are carefully orchestrated t advance the essential knowledge and skills of our fields of study and allow students to broaden and deepen their understanding as the progress though them.
Effect of Globalization
As David Thornburg wrote in 1997, the impact of the web on education is likely to be profound. It is already being used in novel ways to allow students access to the latest breakthroughs in scientific discovery years before they are likely to appear in textbooks. The communication age is connected to the greatest revolution in the history of education since the invention of the printing press.
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