Active learning, projects necessary to boost rural workforces
- As traditional blue collar jobs like factory work are disrupted by automation, schools must continue innovating to stay ahead of the curve and prepare students — especially those in rural districts — for an increasingly tech-driven workforce, Monica Bilak, a maker space director with Paducah Public Schools (KY), and Suzanne Clinton, a writer working on economic development projects with schools and organizations in Kentucky, write in EdSurge.
- The duo write that schools and districts must move away from devoting so many resources to activities related to standardized testing, embracing instead projects that encourage creative and critical thinking and real-world problem-solving skills. Higher education institutions can step in as well by helping schools cultivate these types of programs outside of the classroom through collaborative partnerships.
- In Kentucky, a Work Ready Initiative with $100 million in grant funding available for game-changing workforce solutions helped finance a community maker space for $3.8 million, promoting multi-generational learning and mentorship as a nonprofit operating within a school and serving valuable experiences to learners of all ages.
The production line jobs that public school was primarily designed to prepare the bulk of the population for are quickly becoming a thing of the past due to automation, necessitating an overdue shift to what many have referred to as "School 2.0." Central to this thinking has been the notion that teachers are no longer simply a "sage on the stage" speaking at a classroom of passive learners, but rather a "guide on the side" who shepherds active learners through projects centered on solving real-world problems. Additionally, these new learning models have amplified the ability of educators to personalize lessons, with approaches like "flipped" learning among those allowing additional one-on-one time between students and teachers.
Administrators must be mindful that more active learning approaches can run the risk of increasing teacher burnout and find ways to mitigate that. But such approaches will become increasingly necessary as employers demand not just an increase in the technical skills students are prepared for, but the soft skills (creativity, critical thinking, problem-solving, communication, etc.) that the longstanding model of education has sometimes overlooked. And, to facilitate more focus on workforce readiness, schools can also work with higher education institutions that provide programs meant to build out the school to career pipeline. For example, Rhode Island is investing in programs like Pathways in Technology Early College High School Initiative (P-TECH), where community colleges work with high schoolers to build entreprenuerial skills.
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