Students have the greatest chance to learn and retain information when they excel in an area or find it interesting. If they are uninterested or struggle to comprehend material, they will often zone out and lose focus. Later, they might memorize the information to pass a test, but most of it will be forgotten as time goes on. While the intentions are good in trying to provide students with a well-rounded education, we need to understand that every student isn’t interested in the same thing. Trying to make students memorize information they are likely to forget doesn’t work and just wastes their time. If learning is the foundation of our education system, then we need to give students more freedom in choosing the areas they want to study and learn more about, preferably starting in middle school.
I also believe that Information we teach to students should have some relevance to their lives away from school. Using math as an example, a majority of students will rarely in life use any math beyond addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division, so what is the purpose of making them take Algebra 1 or other advanced math classes? Those who excel in math, those who enjoy math, or those who are interested in getting a job where higher level math is required should be the ones taking these classes. Although it can’t hurt to learn about derivatives, the unit circle, or how to solve systems of equations, if understanding these concepts provides no further use than to just pass a class, a student’s time again is being wasted. This same thought process applies to other subjects as well.
Major Reform: An Asynchronous Learning System that does not Interfere with Synchronous Teaching
Synchronous teaching is the method we are all familiar with where students are taught at the same pace and test at the same time. This system caters to the average student while being a hinderance to those who excel in a subject. In K-12, this method limits what subjects students are able to study as schools have a limited number of teachers and a limited number of classrooms. By incorporating a form of asynchronous learning into our education system we can help students learn in areas they care most about and give them an opportunity to learn at an accelerated pace.
What Asynchronous Learning Should Consist of:
Website that Consolidates All Learning Material
One of the first things needed to incorporate this form of asynchronous learning would be the creation of a national website that consolidates learning material for every subject. This would include reading material, practice quizzes and practice tests, lectures, step by step solutions to problems, study materials, etc. This would allow students to find answers to any questions they have, study and learn material on their own time, find material taught in a different manner by other lecturers/teachers, and give them access to subjects and classes not taught at their school. This would also benefit teachers since they would have access to tests, quizzes, reading material, projects, assignments, etc. They would be able to choose what they like most or what works best for their class.
At-School Testing Centers
Another thing needed to incorporate this form of asynchronous learning would be at-school testing centers. Testing centers would allow students to receive credit for learning subjects and courses not taught at their school, allow them to get ahead in a class without interfering with standard learning, and be a place for students to go if they needed to retake a test they failed during standard learning. Testing centers would have access to tests for all classes and subjects.
Area of Completion System
The last thing needed to incorporate this form of asynchronous learning would be replacing final letter grades with an area of completion system. An area of completion system would be set up so that students know every assignment, quiz, paper, or test they need to complete, and the minimum score needed on each in order to receive credit for a class. This would take away the unnecessary emphasis of final letter grades, which often just measures one’s ability to memorize, and instead let students focus more on learning. This would also help to unify standards for schools throughout the country.
To Reiterate Again
I am in favor of three major reforms that make up an asynchronous learning system which would be incorporated with synchronous teaching. These three reforms would give students more control over what they learn, allow them to fail and learn from their mistakes, give them the opportunity to learn at an accelerated pace in subjects and classes they enjoy or excel in, and allow them to receive credit for classes not taught at their school.
Two Other Reforms to Implement with Asynchronous Learning
Leaning is a continuous process. The more you review something, the more likely you are to retain that information over time. Using another math example, once a student completes Algebra 1, Geometry, and Algebra 2, they would take a cumulative test made up of questions from those three classes. Then after passing Trigonometry and Precalculus, they would take a cumulative test covering all five classes. I believe it is beneficial for students to continuously go over previously learned material.
Multiple Levels of Difficulty for Material
The other reform I support is creating multiple levels of difficulty for each test, quiz, paper, or assignment. Students would be able to show their proficiency in a subject or class by passing those that are more difficult. Completing more difficult level tests, quizzes, papers, and assignments would be beneficial for students when it comes to applying for colleges, jobs, or internships. To just get credit for a class though, students would only need to pass the easiest versions. By having students just show a basic level of proficiency in each subject, we can ensure that they aren’t penalized too harshly for not grasping material they struggle with or find uninteresting, and we can allow them to spend more time in areas that matter most to them.
School Week Setup to Include More Right Brain Learning in K-12
I am in favor of having more traditional left brain learning take place before lunch, and then after lunch, focus on right brain activities such as band, theatre, art, poetry, sporting activities, games, social activities, etc. I do not see the need to drill students with information five days a week, 5-6 hours a day, especially when a lot of that information is either insignificant or forgotten.
Trade School and Vocational School Options
Our education system is terrible at promoting jobs that do not require a college degree. Not everyone needs a college education to be successful in life. Because of this, I am in favor of allowing students, when they turn 15, to enroll in a trade school or vocational school of their choosing. Their expenses would be fully paid for all the way up until they turn 18. This would allow students to obtain or advance their skills in areas that are necessary for many well-paying jobs.
Ending General Education Requirements in College
While you can certainly learn a few things from taking general education classes, I believe that for the most part, they are a waste of time and money. I am in favor of doing away with these requirements in college and letting students focus solely on taking classes for a specific degree. The problem I have with a four year degree system is that it almost forces high school graduates to enroll in college right away to start knocking out these requirements. By ending general education requirements, we would allow high school graduates to hold off on enrolling until they have a better understanding of what they want to do in life. This also is the simplest way of making college more affordable.