Written by Coby Enteen
Our lives have changed drastically over the course of the last three of decades; job stability is slowly declining, manual labor is rapidly being taken over by machines, and the collective knowledge of the internet is becoming more valuable than the teacher and the textbook. Schools are largely finding it difficult to keep up with these challenges, often creating a learning void and failing to provide even the fundamental skills required for success in the constantly-evolving world. As educational paradigms shift, many new and existing pedagogies have been introduced into the classroom such as Project-Based Learning, Problem-Based Learning, Place-Based Learning, Computer-Based Learning, Discovery-Learning, Outdoor Education, Flipped-Classroom, Design-Thinking, E-Learning (which comes in different variations), Maker Spaces, and the list goes on. This begs the question; are any of these modern teaching methods gaining ground and are they being effectively adopted in a consistent manner in the classroom or are they being viewed as “Boutique” approaches to learning that are “nice to have.”
Although there is no definitive answer to this question, it has become fairly clear that the pendulum is slowly shifting in the direction of modern pedagogy, primarily out of necessity and as a grassroots understanding that classroom learning must change to meet the needs of the modern world. However, the flip side of the issue is that many school district administrators and educational policy makers continue to battle pedagogic modernization by promoting standardized testing and teacher accountability measures. This creates a resistance to change and most often results in more traditional frontal teaching and “test-prep” approaches. One observable effect is that many alternative schools have sprouted throughout the educational landscape, using modern instructional approaches as a trademark and method of differentiation from the competition. Some prime examples of this would be the Hi-Tech High model in San Diego and the Studio Schools model in the U.K.
While teachers are becoming increasingly aware of modern pedagogy and many have received pre-service and in-service training in these areas; they are often finding it difficult to sustain this type of teaching in the classroom on a regular basis. This can be largely attributed a number of factors including the absence of adequate support during the initial implementation phase, a lack of lesson preparation time and the focus on standardized testing. Moreover, modern instructional practices are many times introduced one after another, without a clear plan and concrete steps for integrating it into the curriculum. Thus, educators have become largely skeptical regarding the promise of modern pedagogy for classroom transformation and have begun to adopt the “boutique approach”, whereby new methods are used in conjunction with specific lessons and extracurricular assignments; never really becoming a teaching standard.