Term Paper: Education Review

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Education Review

It is now understood that the traditional form of education needs to be changed. First, students will face a completely different environment when they go on their own into a fast-paced and global world. Second, more studies are recognizing that children learn very differently, and the teacher-lecture approach does not provide the best education for everyone. Third, in today's environment, knowledge is the main product for sale. To develop this product, students need a high-quality specialized learning situation. Increasingly, schools will have to offer well-rounded education to successfully prepare the next generations of students to meet a wide variety of experiences and face many different challenges.

The Industrial Age required more workers than thinkers, so in most respects school was available for learning the basics to get by (Reigeluth, 1994). Those who had a desire to learn and continue their studies went on to the next level of education, while everyone else was sent out into the workforce. As the world became more complex with the creation of an information-based society, the ability to think, acquire knowledge and adjust to changing situations became increasingly critical for larger numbers of the workforce.

Educators now recognize that the basics are no longer enough. Employers are demanding much more complex skills, even from high school graduates. Plus, in an increasingly global economy, which is becoming competitively flat, if the education of one country is not providing the necessary skillbase, companies will simply hire graduates from another country or relocate their operations elsewhere in the world.

Thus, highly skilled workers are crucial for the country's continued economic advancement. Not only is it essential for individuals to be technologically competent, they also must have strong analytical abilities, interpersonal skills, and a creative entrepreneurial spirit. Today's organizations are looking for employees who can reason, problem solve, multi-task, communicate well with diverse populations, and foster teamwork. Their people must be innovative and work independently. For continued success in some of the nation's traditional trades, such as computers and healthcare, and emerging industries, such as nanotechnology and biotechnology, people are needed who can work out of the box and develop entirely new ways of looking at old solutions.

In addition, the labor market is quickly shifting away from lifetime work to less permanent employment opportunities. Men, especially, are staying with the same employers for fewer years. This means that workers in this century need to be adaptable and flexible. Education and training is no longer just to acquire the skills and knowledge necessary get a foundation in one's career. It is required for continuous improvement over one's life to keep up with updating work needs.

Over the last century, a number of different theories have been developed to explain how children learn. Many of these theoretical approaches have been proven valid since they were first hypothesized. However, the way that they are applied has to be altered to meet the changing needs of the students and society. Jean Piaget (1936), a Swiss biologist and psychologist, is known for a model of birth through adult development and learning that is based on the concept that the growing person builds cognitive structures or mental schema or networks for comprehending and relating to experiences within the environment. According to Piaget, a child's cognitive structure becomes more sophisticated as it develops, growing from a few innate responses such as crying to highly complicated mental activities.

Piaget (1936) describes a number of different principles for expanding cognitive ability. As children develop, they experience their environment utilizing the mental schema that they have thus far established. If they are experiencing something repeatedly, the results are assimilated into their cognitive structure, so that they can maintain mental balance. If instead they are having a new experience, the children lose mental symmetry and must adjust their cognitive structure to cope with the changing situations. In this way, the youths build increasingly complex and adaptive cognitive structures. A number of lessons can be learned for today's education from Piaget's model. Teachers must develop a curriculum that is developmentally appropriate and will enhance the students' level of cognitive growth. It is also important that educators stress the essential role that both established and new experiences play in the students' continued learning.

Much of Piaget's conceptual theories are based on thoughts by John Dewey (1910) and the concept of constructivism; people understand only what they have created or constructed. Today, this philosophy of constructivism can be seen as establishing an interdisciplinary approach, since it includes a diverse set of educational, sociological, psychological, and philosophical theories. In should not be viewed as an approach that negates other teaching approaches, but rather one that can be incorporated into present learning as a means of enhancing the student's involvement in the process rather than just having the teacher having overall authority and power.

That is, the constructivist approach places the emphasis on the learner rather than the teacher. The students need to experience their environment and, as a result, gain an understanding of its characteristics and qualities. They develop their unique conceptualizations and discover personalized solutions to problems, which allow them to become more autonomous and independent. In the constructivist approach to education, knowledge gained is influenced by the environment and the learners' beliefs and attitudes. Students are given the impetus of identifying, solving and evaluating problems, in addition to determining methods for using the experienced gained for future situations. In the classroom that emphasizes constructivist education, teachers encourage learners to build on previously gained knowledge and learn how to construct new knowledge. Piaget's constructivist approach is based on his perspective of the psychological development of children and the important element of discovery: "To understand is to discover, or reconstruct by rediscovery, and such conditions must be complied with if in the future individuals are to be formed who are capable of production and creativity and not simply repetition" (Piaget, 1973).

Another educator, Rogers (1969), emphasizes what he calls experiential learning, which is related to constructivism. It distinguishes between cognitive learning or meretricious, and experimental learning, that includes personal involvement, learner initiation and evaluation and pervasive effects on the learner. Rogers contrasts the experiential or constructivist learning approach with the traditional classroom, in which students are merely passive vessels that receive information from the teacher and the textbook. This is similar to Dewey (1910) who believes that knowledge is gained only from experiences that are integrated into social context, such as a classroom, where students participate in transforming materials and, as a result, form a learning community and together build knowledge. Rote memorization is not the way to learn; instead education should take place in a directed-learning situation where structured activities are combined with theory. The point is that students must be engaged in meaningful activities that encourage them to apply the concepts they are attempting to learn.

Another educator involved with the constructivist theory is Bruner (1973), who looks at learning as a social process where students construct new concepts that are founded on current knowledge. Learners choose information, construct hypotheses and make decisions with the goal of integrating these new situations into their mental constructs. Cognitive structures provide meaning and order to experiences, which give learners the opportunity to go beyond the established limitations of information supplied. Bruner believes that learner independence, which is furthered through the encouragement of discovery of new principles, is the basis for effective education. In addition, curriculum needs to be organized spirally, in order that the students can build on the information they have already acquired.

Thus, Bruner (1973) stresses readiness, or that instruction should be appropriate to the experiences that make the student willing and able to learn; spiral organization, or teaching needs to be structured to be readily understood by the students; and going beyond the information provided, by instruction that is developed to facilitate extrapolation. Further, by providing opportunities for independent thinking, constructivism allows students to take responsibility for their own learning, by constructing questions and deciphering them. Going beyond basic factual information, students are encouraged to observe links between ideas and therefore theorize, explain and defend their ideas.

The constructivist approach to education can be incorporated successfully into the curriculum by using learning guides tailored to the students' previous knowledge. In addition, it emphasizes hands-on problem solving. Further, in the instruction itself, teachers stress making linkages between facts learned and promoting new levels of student understanding. Instructors customize their instructional strategies to learner responses and support students in their analysis, interpretation, and prediction of information. In addition, instructors rely considerably on open-ended questions and further widespread interaction among students. Learners are assessed as part of the educational process and play a larger part in determining their own progress rather than through grades and standardized testing.

The above theories demonstrate another approach to learning than the traditional teacher/lecture method, giving students more involvement with their own learning process. One of the important elements here is that as they become older, students understand the ways that they can best acquire information.… [END OF PREVIEW]

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