Sunday, January 7, 2018

Pathways to the Future

"If you believe only one pathway exists to achieve your goal, then all there is to evaluate your progress with is how much faster or slower you hit each milestone compared to the norm." Todd Rose (2016) suggests that we consequently bestow tremendous meaning on the pace of personal growth, learning and developing. Using this concept, it would mean that students who complete something quicker are "better." The assumption that faster means better was developed by Edward Thorndike who believed that the pace at which students learn material was correlated with academic and professional success. A proponent for standardizing classes, Thorndike also supported schools developing tests based on how long it took the average student to complete a task and to rank students accordingly. This theory of assessment is profoundly inequitable and simply favors the students who happen to be fast while penalizing students who are just as smart yet learn at a slower pace or have other barriers currently limiting their ability to focus on academics. 

In a world that is no longer focused on preparing the majority of students to work as factory workers, the end of "average" approaches to education should end. As Rose suggests, "we should evaluate students based on the quality of their outcomes, not the quickness of their pace." This assumption is not based on new research - over thirty years ago Bloom's work showed that when students are allowed to participate in flexible classrooms the vast majority of students perform better. Bloom's work suggests there is no such thing as a "fast" or "slow" learner yet most schools still use this variable to measure student achievement. By resisting shifts towards personalized learning schools are failing to nurture the potential and talent of all its students. 

All Holy Family Academy students select a post-secondary pathway and career cluster they want to pursue at the end of the 10th grade. These pathways have multiple entry and exist points as students select and create customized experiences in junior and seniors years all while at the pace that makes sense for them. 

At a school like ours (designed to end average approaches to completing high school) we focus on personalized learning, multiple post-secondary pathway exploration and project based learning. Coupled with advisory and family support, we believe this model to address the current inequities in school design. 

Summarized HFA was designed with these 5 R's in mind:

1. Real life learning through project based learning, partnerships and internships 
2. Rigorous learning experiences that are personally paced 
3. Relevant learning with focus on being culturally relevant and sustaining 
4. Relationships - the backbone of our school family that is guided through faith, built through family partnerships and advisory supported by well-trained and caring adults

So, how might we help our students pursue multiple pathways to success rather than follow the average pathway? What does your school do to support this type of experience? What might the barriers be and how do we overcome them? 

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