Friday, July 6, 2012

These TImes They are A Changin'

This week, I attended a two-day orientation at the University of Colorado at Boulder.  Jens will be attending in the fall (double major in English and Electrical Engineering).  He's our third child to go to CU (Go Buffs!) and this was the third orientation for his parents (we took turns).  I learned a lot and it was great fun spending time on campus!  At a session about his college, one of the directors of advising shared some interesting information with us... a 2010 study by Hart Research Associates.  The study was called, "Raising The Bar:  Employers’ Views On College Learning In The Wake Of The Economic Downturn."  As I was listening to the presentation, I was struck... the findings were certainly apropos.  I realized that the same qualities employers were looking for in college level academia were the same "views" that we, as teachers of younger children, are hoping learners will acquire.
     I read the study.  70% of those surveyed agreed that the areas colleges need to increase their focus include:
  • 1) written and oral communication,
  • 2) critical thinking and analytical reasoning, 
  • 3) the application of knowledge and skills in real-world settings, 
  • 4) complex problem-solving and analysis, 
  • 5) ethical decision-making, 
  • 6) teamwork skills, 
  • 7) innovation and creativity, and 
  • 8) concepts and developments in science and technology.     (c) Hart Research Associates
     The professor shared the university's synthesis of specific aspects of the study.  In the College of Arts and Sciences, they are hoping students will sharpen the following behaviors as learners:
  • Develop critical thinking skills
  • Deliver effective oral and written communication
  • Hone research and organizational skills
  • Learn to look at multiple sides of an issue
  • Apply reasoning and logic
  • Make time to meet goals and complete projects successfully
  • Heighten self-confidence
  • Heighten self-understanding
  • Refine analytical skills
  • Acquire critical reflective reading skills
  • Improve numerical skills
  • Work productively and in teams
  • Cultivate sensitivity to individual and cultural differences  From a presentation by Peter J. Freitag
 I immediately asked to copy this powerpoint slide.  Do you see why I was struck?
     As a teacher of nine and ten-year-old learners, these are the same learning characteristics my students should develop as we work together.  So many things on "the list" I weave into my instruction via thinking strategy studies, units of study, mathematical inquiries, classroom discourse, curriculum requirements, use of technology, etc.  As we move into a "common core" we need to remember that these behaviors are of utmost import!  They sound a lot like the 21st Century Skills that we, as teachers, have been discussing for quite some time.  I think I'm going to keep this list handy as I plan for the coming year.
     Here's my inquiry question... How can I better communicate the role these components have in "coming to understand" for learners, both implicitly and explicitly?
     If employers are encouraging college students to acuminate these learning qualities, wouldn't it behoove us to let others know that we, too, value these qualities... beginning even in preschool (Isn't early childhood education the beginning of 'working productively and in teams' and 'heightening self-confidence' and 'applying reasoning and logic'?).  These qualities start in preschool... not college (although college might bring them to fruition in more complex learning situations, eh?).
     These are intriguing times for education.  Implementing the Common Core.  Rhetoric by Pundits Who Have Never Taught (D. Graves, The Energy to Teach).  Being Indundated with "Stuff" from Publishers of Canned Curriculum.  A Lack of Focus on Authentic Learning.  To quote Bob Dylan...

"Come gather 'round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You'll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you
Is worth savin'
Then you better start swimmin'
Or you'll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin'."

      If, in fact, these qualities are what employers are looking for, we should make sure they survive in today's educational climate.  How?  I guess that's for us to figure out.  I think I'm going to start swimming!
- - - - - 
On a side note... I'm glad Jens will get the chance to explore in a system that values such interesting principles of learning.  He's had a grand start... Peakview Elementary, Thunder Ridge Middle School, Eaglecrest High School... many of his teachers have already done a fine job of planting these seeds in him as a learner.  They've continued to germinate.  And, won't the advising department at his university of choice be glad to see them blossom even more?  Go Buffs!


  1. Patrick,
    This is great! I would hope times are changing - I know I didn't get this kind of intro to university and I was there less than 20 years ago. I think this is exactly what is needed and exactly what I hope to keep reminding myself of as the new school year starts. Thanks for posting! You inspired one of my own.

  2. And of course, I am sure you can add experiences with his parents to his "grand start"!

    Thank you for sharing this information. It is always interesting to make connections realizing that we are all working toward common goals and considering our role in the bigger picture.

    Congratulations to your son!