Saturday, January 05, 2013

What Does "Results Oriented" Education Mean to You?

Mission Statement from India's Central Board of Secondary Education
I will soon engage in a conversation related to "results oriented" education.  It is not a term commonly used in my education circles, so I did a bit of research related to term.

The definition and discussion I liked best was one from a speech I found on the Internet, a speech from the Chairman of the Central Board of Secondary Education in India. The chairman states, ". . .that education is a process of empowering every individual so that he or she achieves their potential to the fullest extent, i.e. 100%.. . . championing the cause of "Holistic Education" which just cannot be measured in terms of examination results."

The chairman describes attributes that either hinder or help holistic education in his speech.

As I consider results oriented education, I have decided to ponder the positive and negative aspects of the attributes below.  I added several quotes from the chairman's speech to the discussion.

1. Standardized Tests: These tests only demonstrate a fraction of the skills and attributes that contribute to a holistic education.  I believe that standardized tests should be streamlined and used to inform the work we do, and since these tests only test a fraction of what's important with regard to success, they deserve only a fraction of the education dollars available.

2. Creativity and Invention: Schools need to be places where students are learning to innovate, problem solve and think critically.  Compliance and obedience should stand far behind in the list of priorities when it comes to learning endeavor.

3. Emotional and Social Intelligence contributes to one's overall success, and this should be acknowledged and fostered appropriately in school environments.

4. Passions and Interests.  Parents and teachers know that children demonstrate keen interests and passions from the start, and we can't ignore these strong directions if we want happy, productive people.  Hence we need to make sure that our schools promote students' passions and interest with "choice, consideration and cooperation/collaboration" rather than "compulsion, comparison and competition."

5. Stressful Testing and Expectations. Stress makes learning "dull and often painful." Rather than too many dull assessments, students should engage in ongoing, formative activities which include assessments to gauge their growth and academic needs.

6. Competition. The speech suggests that too much competition may "dull the natural talents and abilities of children." I agree that we have to keep a constant eye out to make sure that our focus is on student learning rather than doing better than the next school, state or country.

7. Self Directed Learners. As educators we should foster in our students the "drive, zeal and skills to learn to learn." Education should be a continuous, scaffolded process of taking the learner from "dependence to independence." We often refer to this as the gradual release of responsibility in elementary schools.

8. Efficient Knowledge Workers. Learners need to understand how to "locate, access, analyze, evaluate and create knowledge." As children learn, they need to be able to transfer the learning from the school environment to the real world, and this transfer requires the "use of technology at every level."

9. Entrepreneurial.  We need to develop our students ability to "take manageable risks, perceive opportunity," develop enterprise, innovate and interact in a global society. "Over protection and spoon feeding in the name of preparing learners for examinations will kill their initiative, making them accept stereotypes and status-quo."

10. Ethics/Values. "The social values of mutual respect, adaptability and cooperation and coexistence should be harmonized with human values like empathy, kindness, service, probity in public life and honesty in private dealings."

11. Culture. "Education should make it clear to students that learning is neither confined to nor limited by institutions like schools, colleges and universities. It is an ongoing process and to continue to be successful, we should continue to learn."

12. Continuous Improvement of Organizations.  Organizations should continually evolve in response to our changing world and the needs of students.  Time for collaborative work, professional development, and study should inform this process in an ongoing fashion.

13. Learning Communities. Schools should become learning laboratories where "students and teachers experiment, innovate and learn from each other's experiences." It should become a "bee-hive of activity" where every member is valued and seeking new paths. In these organizations teamwork and problem solving are prioritized, and rather than assessing "instructional quality" in terms of coverage of content, "student's quality of learning" is assessed instead. In other words, teaching students takes priority over teaching content. Inclusion of structures such as PLCs (professional learning communities) with debate as well as collaboration can expand perspective and help all to reach high levels of understanding.

14. Systems Thinking. This implies a focus on the intersection of  processes including scheduling, roles, and structure prior to a focus on results.  Streamlined, efficient, focused systems will make adequate time and attention for education's focal point: student learning.

15. Leadership: Educational leaders are the key factor in the success of learning communities. "Leadership should be a visionary one, creating a shared vision and a positive environment that attracts and retains the best people. Strong educational leaders are "updated and confident," energetic and enthusiastic, good communicators and working to "involve the entire team in the process of continuous improvement."  "Good leadership implies a responsibility to  make every member of the organization a leader," essentially a "leader of leaders."

"100% result does not mean 100% pass--it means creating an ambience in the school so that each learner becomes a fruitful citizen in later life.

As I read several articles related to "results oriented" education I found that the term seemed to be used more outside of the United States rather than inside the U.S., but that may be due to my quick search rather than a lengthy investigation.

In summary, as I begin to think about "results oriented" education, the most important aspect of the job is determining the "results" you want to achieve, a process that is always a point of debate and discussion in the United States.  I like the chairman's holistic results intent as it embeds the essential ingredients of a strong academic foundation with the important attributes of a positive mindset, independence and students' passions and interests.  As he suggests a too narrow "results" focus will result in dull, uninspired individuals who do not have the skill to problem solve, create and lead us to a better world.

Please don't hesitate to share your viewpoints, definitions, articles and links related to "results oriented" education as I continue down this research and reflection path.