What and How to Teach in Exponential Times


Taken from a Business Partners Thought Leaders Article, 2017

Let’s face it – ‘what’ and ‘how’ our children learn is fundamentally changing before our very eyes and schools that recognize inherently outmoded practices and take genuine steps to revolutionize will quickly become the schools of choice for modern learners.

Pinewood American International School is continually engaged in identifying and tackling the challenges; thus renovating the learning experience for its students. Below are two discernible challenges followed by new models for each and why they work.

What’s worth learning?

Firstly, the ‘content is king’ era has long since passed in education. Memorizing facts and information is not the most important skill in today’s world. Facts change and information is readily available. Hence, teaching content is important, but as a means to an end, not as a one-dimensional end in itself.

The new model: A four dimensional model of learning (Fadel, et al) is more relevant for today’s student as it promotes an understanding of how to make sense of information. This model is about systematically teaching four parts of a whole: (1) content from traditional and new disciplines like entrepreneurship, coding and wellness, (2) higher order thinking skills – the 4Cs and more, (3) character qualities such as curiosity, diplomacy, resilience and (4) meta-learning – cultivating a growth mindset, reflective practices and a tolerance for failure.

Why it works: We tell our students that landing a job a Google will not happen because they are able to recite the periodic table of elements or factor a polynomial. It will happen because they can sit in a room with 2 or 3 other people and utilize all four dimensions to unravel any problem posed. It’s about holistic cognitive ability.

Why cultivate nonconformity?

Secondly, a crushing majority of schools still use the century-old model of the teacher up front – the sage on the stage – imparting knowledge in a one-size-fits-all manner rather than teaching unique individuals in a complex world.

The new model: A blended learning model is one that simultaneously utilizes face-to-face and digital learning approaches. Blended environments allow for multiple learning paths to happen at once: a group of students can listen to the teacher review a concept, for instance, while others work nearby on a group project, and still others work individually on laptops, with VR goggles, on 3D printers, and soon enough, with an AI teaching companion. It allows students to make decisions about their personal learning paths. Blended learning is chaotic but orients learning towards nonconformity.

Why it works: We tell our students that becoming the next Mark Zuckerberg will not happen because they have dutifully followed directions. It will happen because they can be critical about their best ideas, make good decisions and think rebelliously. We see that blended learning changes the way students think and learn by transforming them from passive recipients of information to active generators of knowledge.

In practice, Pinewood’s model of what and how to teach is transforming our students’ school experience profoundly. How do we know? They are excited about school, passionate about learning and hopeful about their future.