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Contents:
  1. It’s Not the Time Spent in School, It’s How It’s Used
  2. Learning All The Time
  3. What's Worth Learning in School? | Harvard Graduate School of Education
  4. Site Navigation Mobile

It’s Not the Time Spent in School, It’s How It’s Used

Educators, Perkins says, need to embrace these same insights. They need to start asking themselves what he considers to be one of the most important questions in education: What's worth learning in school? All right. As a teacher, Perkins says he hates that question. Teachers work hard at what they do, and the question is disrespectful. I like to know things.

The information in textbooks is not necessarily what you need or would like to have at your fingertips. Curriculum suffers from something of a crowded garage effect: It generally seems safer and easier to keep the old bicycle around than to throw it out. Unfortunately all of that test knowledge, all of that accumulated knowledge we thought was worth knowing, becomes useless if not used. It also says a lot about the current state of education.


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Take mitosis, the process of cell division. During the Future session, he asked everyone in the audience — hundreds of people — to raise their hands if they had studied mitosis in high school. Pretty much every hand went up. He asked how many people remember, basically, what it is. About half went up. He then asked how many have used their knowledge of mitosis in the last 10 years.

One hand went up. Just as educators are pushing students to build a huge reservoir of knowledge, they are also focused on having students master material, sometimes at the expense of relevance.

Learning All The Time

This happens, for example, with the achievement gap. The achievement gap asks if students are achieving X.

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Instead, it might be more useful to look at the relevance gap, which asks if X is going to matter to the lives students are likely to lead. That knowledge goes somewhere. Mastering quadratic equations is challenging, but those equations are not so lifeworthy.

What's Worth Learning in School? | Harvard Graduate School of Education

The typical math curriculum is a good example of how we want learners to move toward expertise in a subject, with little regard for usefulness. In fact, expert amateurism works great, he says, in most of what we do in our lives — raising children, filing taxes, appreciating art, understanding insurance rates, or dealing with our own health care.

Perkins is very clear that expertise in a specific field is not bad; in fact, he encourages it and assumes it will happen at the college or university level. So we come back to the question: What is worth learning?

In his book, Perkins promises that he is not going to answer that question, at least not in a tidy way. Perkins says there would be no way to create a definitive list because there are lots of things worth learning at any given time or for a specialized career or even simply because we enjoy learning.

In Project Based Learning, the project is the vehicle for teaching the important knowledge and skills student need to learn. In contrast to dessert projects, PBL requires critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration, and various forms of communication. To answer a Driving Question and create high-quality work, students need to do much more than remember information.

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They need to use higher-order thinking skills and learn to work as a team. This framework describes what students should be doing, learning, and experiencing in a good project. Each one offers a great starting point for newbies, and inspiration for experienced practitioners. What is PBL?

In Project Based Learning, teachers make learning come alive for students. And in case you were looking for a more formal definition Get started.