I think there are many things contributing to the “failing” education system in the US. Failing is a harsh word as I am unsure of its accuracy in describing what is really going on, but it’s not the teachers that are failing within this system, though they get much of the blame. The system itself is broken and needs repair. Part of the issue, as I suggested in my previous post is policy. The system, focuses on the pieces of learning, not on higher levels of learning. Mostly because informational learning is easily quantifiable. Transformative learning is more difficult to quantify and relies heavily on the learner’s experiences.
Another commonly used approach to education and learning is Bloom’s Taxonomy. Bloom’s Taxonomy is a building block of types of learning that has identified three of types of basic learning: cognitive (mental skills, knowledge), affective (growth in feelings or emotional areas, attitude) and psychomotor (manual or physical skills). Within each category of learning are the dimensions that typically follow the same process to having mastered each skill: remembering, understanding, applying, analyzing, evaluating and creating. Being able to create represents the mastery of each skill set. This would take the concept of a puzzle into a new realm, not just putting the pieces together, but creating your own puzzle. Unfortunately, standardized tests measure primarily the dimension of remembering and on occasion understanding. This is in no way representative of learning except at the earliest stages. The process of mastering the dimensions within each skill is being lost. And this is where our education policy is flawed.
Learning is a process. Our culture doesn’t really value process, we value outcome. To a large degree so does our education system unfortunately. I see this all the time with my students. They are not interested in learning the material, they are focused on grades. Most students equate an “A” with having “learned” the material, which is patently unrelated in the long run, but grades are all they care about. They want the information they need to know (or memorize) to earn a good grade. They do not value learning as a process or just learning in general. They see their college experience as a means to an end, a job. That’s fair, but not the purpose of education. Education is an opportunity. What someone does with that opportunity is up to them. The first question out of many prospective students mouths is “What can I do with this degree?” Again, that’s a fair question. There is an ROI that must be factored in to how much someone is willing to spend to obtain an “education”, to a point. I use that term loosely because I still don’t think we have defined what it means to be “educated” or “learned”. So I turn it right around on them and say “what do you want to do with a degree?” “What are you passionate about?” However, passion is part of that process and we tend to skip right over that part and focus on the outcome. This is cultural, and it’s part of the problem with our idea of education.