The goal of learning in this age of instant information is necessarily shifting from learning ‘things’. Memorizing facts that can be looked up has become less important in the information age than learning how to learn, understanding your own learning processes, and learning how to work as part of a larger group. Though the P21 student outcomes of critical thinking, creativity and innovation, problem solving, and communication and collaboration have been tossed about for a while student mastery of these skills seems to be a little slower catching up.
I see the effects of this on the traditional age college students around me today. Growing up and receiving their educational foundation while this focus shift was occurring left some holes in skill sets that they now struggle to fill. Excellent students with excellent grades have not mastered the art of professional communication or working as part of a collaborative team and struggle as we place them in real situations that demand these skills. It often seems students who receive the best letter grades are especially vulnerable to this. In the Brown video I watched (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=41pNX9-yNu4), he said “If the first thing that happens when something doesn’t work is that it frightens you, then you are not going to be very willing to embrace change’.
I can think of a few examples from my own experience. I know of a university program with a competitive entry process who recently switched providers for their entrance test. They switched because they found they needed a test that incorporated a way to assess critical thinking while their previous selection process based the majority of the emphasis on GPA and math skills. Students with very impressive GPA’s in a difficult sampling of cross discipline pre-requisite courses hadn’t necessarily mastered critical thinking.
For another real world example we could look at the difference between the skills students think they have and how employers rate them. Almost every college degree program requires communication classes and yet employers are still complaining we are not doing a good job preparing the next generation workforce to communicate (https://www.nbcnews.com/business/careers/why-johnny-cant-write-why-employers-are-mad-f2D11577444).
So I wonder what is going on. I think I have been reading about the importance of these skills for a long time. Why are they still missing in students that have gotten to the post-secondary arena. Has their been a gap in assessing for these outcomes? Have they been accounted for in standardized testing?
Obviously, I don’t have the answer here. I am also not very familiar with what standardized testing over the last 15 or 20 years has been designed to assess. I’d love to hear from some of you that know more about that subject. And though it seriously dates me, I thought the brainstorming activity was pretty interesting. Here is the list I came up with…
The papers I submitted in high school were typed on actual paper and allowed to have two typos.
The news was on for 18 minutes 3 times a day.
We went to record stores and spent whole days making mix tapes.
We had to find a pay phone to call home from the mall.
Smoking was socially acceptable
No one I knew thought they would ever be in a war.
Students never emailed professors.
You had to go to someone’s house to play Dungeons and Dragons.