The RX for Education?

Interactive learning outside of the classroom? Putting play back into the university? An overhaul of a century-old educational approach?

Just last night, I opened the most recent UVA Magazine (“A History of Women at UVA”) to find three articles that will serve to enhance the conversations we’re having about education at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. In my opinion, all three are “must share” pieces…all serve as evidence that things are shifting and that young people are taking learning into the own hands.

1. Impromptu Learning: Flash Seminars Catch On

“Now U.Va. students, faculty and community members are gathering for “flash seminars”—one-time, informal mini-classes organized via e-mail. Flash seminars tend to be on “exciting topics that react and respond to the world around us,” according to the student group that plans them.”

To learn more about flash seminars (and see a list of the most recent impromptu learning opportunities), click here. If we release a bit of control and let our students and teachers organize similar experiences, what would happen to the culture of learning, the perceptions about the role of the teacher and student, and the understanding of learning spaces at our schools?

2. Play Time: Students take Love of Games to a New Level

“There are so many interesting aspects of the games,” says Lobaton. “It’s great, and more rewarding, to enjoy them with people.” Club members have a diverse range of interests and individual preferences for their mode of playing, but students willingly share knowledge and amusement with one another. Indoors or outdoors, students keep in mind that the games are just that—a welcome pause from academics and work that keeps a playful mentality alive on Grounds. “They’re a way to come together,” Lobaton says.”

Play is all about the human connection. Students are finding ways to re-introduce play into their normal routine. In my opinion, it’s easy to make time for play at the elementary level. Is this a way to make play/recess a reality in secondary schools?

3. Adjusting the Prescription: The School of Medicine Overhauls its Century-Old Educational Approach

“When the Claude Moore Medical Education Building emerged from the construction rubble in 2010, it was apparent that the rules were changing. Set among all the square profiles and institutional red brick of the U.Va. Health System complex, its round structure of glinting glass looked, from the outside, less like a building than some futuristic beehive.

It signifies a huge culture change within the School of Medicine. After the ritual white-coat ceremony at the start of the fall semester, the Class of 2014 entered a brave new world: They would be the first group to try a different curriculum, test the facility’s innovative educational technology and undergo a learning experience unlike that of previous generations. After four years, they are expected to graduate with the habits of mind—curiosity, skepticism, compassion, wonder—that will prepare them to be better physicians.”

Exactly. A HUGE culture change. The picture below is evidence that we can no longer be comfortable with our traditional approach. If UVA Medical School can make the shift (in curriculum, in schedule, and in learning spaces), what are we waiting for?

Learning Space_UVa

The article is a must-read. It hits on so many important themes: essential 21st century competencies, learner-centered classrooms and curricula, individualized learning processes, synthesizing curricular topics, self-assessment, problem-solving in teams, case studies,  metacognition and reflection. A few of my favorite quotes are below:

“On this December morning, the low rumble of conversation in the “learning studio” gives an illusion that class hasn’t started; after all, there’s no sign of a professor at the lectern. In a 4,500-square-foot circular room, 155 first-year medical students sit at round tables arrayed with their laptops…This week’s theme, “Tolerance and Immunization,” is part of a semester-long course in molecular and cellular medicine. Instead of separate classes in four or more different disciplines, the curriculum is synthesized, interweaving clinical issues with the basic sciences.”

“The skills are more immediately applicable. In adult learning theory, this is the goal: to apply your knowledge right away.”

“In this “flattened classroom,” as it’s been described, the traditional top-down educational approach is reconfigured and the responsibility for learning shifts to the student.”

“Debriefing, to me, is a fascinating area,” says Mark Kirk, an associate professor of emergency medicine and pediatrics and co-director of the simulation center. “You facilitate the discussion, but really you’re trying to get the group to talk. The questions I ask are: ‘What were you thinking? What information were you trying to gather?”When students see themselves on video, they have a much better understanding of who they are and what they appear to be. Sometimes there’s an uncomfortable disconnect between the two.”

“We have the sense that education should be standardized and everyone should have the same experience, but that’s not really the case for us,” says Littlewood. “The new Carnegie report talks about having standardized outcomes for individualized experiences, and I think there’s no better example than over here.”

The previous quotes send a pretty powerful message: the time to change is now.

What are we waiting for?

RX for Ed_UVa

All images courtesy of The University of Virginia Magazine, Spring 2011. This magazine is published by the UVA Alumni Association.

One thought on “The RX for Education?

  1. Fascinating and encouraging post! In that last little image, the word “observing” on the “out” list gave me a little bit of pause as a science teacher and also, the more I think about it, as a language teacher too. I wonder if we can continue to hone powerful observation skills while engaging and stimulating students at the same time. I am thinking of an assignment that my bio students had to do this weekend: Go to a spot in nature (not a garden, or a lawn, but tide pools okay) and observe for an hour. They are getting ready to ask a question about the place and the ecology there that will unfold (if all goes as planned, into a project.
    Thanks again for the post, amiga– you are such a busy gal. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *