Charter Schools And Alternative Pedagogy For The 21st Century


Starting a charter school is a massive undertaking. The process usually takes one to two years and involves some major decision making. First and foremost on the list of things to do is to determine the pedagogy that you want for the school. Pedagogy, or the method with which students are taught, can determine the entire direction of the school and is often very different from a traditional public school. In the 21st century, some charters schools are turning to classical roots while others are moving in the direction of personalized learning for each individual student. 

Classical Education: A classical education is not one that focuses on ancient Greece and Rome, but rather deals with how the material is delivered. Using a three-pronged approach, called the trivium, educators have younger students memorize facts, middle students learn how to question those facts, and older students are trained to express themselves through intelligent debate. Each step builds on the one before it so that by the time students graduate, he or she is ready for college.

Project-Based Learning: PBL, or project-based learning, is more of a hands-on approach to learning. This student-led method allows students to work on individual, extended projects that interest them instead of rote learning and memorization. The projects could be an in-depth study of the Amazon and the effects of deforestation or creating a quilt from stories gathered in a local log-term care facility. The result is that students still learn the topics that they are required to cover, but the process is more meaningful to them. 

Montessori: The Montessori Method believes that children are naturally eager learners and, in a properly prepared environment, will learn through sensory experiences, touching, seeing, hearing, and smelling, Although commonly used in early childhood education, the Montessori Method can actually be employed during older years as well. 

Blended Learning: The advent of high speed internet has led to changes in education. Online classes, first implemented in higher education, are now available for all grade levels, including kindergarten. This opens up not only new sources of information, but new ways to learn. Non-traditional students can choose to learn at home via the internet. Charter schools are also using online options to create blended learning environments where students attend part of the week in person, and part from home, via the internet. 

Waldorf: Based on the discoveries of Rudolf Steiner, a Waldorf education believes in tapping into each child's inner enthusiasm for learning. Proponents believe that helping a student relate what they are learning to their own personal experience is key to learning.

What are 21st Century Skills

The above pedagogies are all very unique in their approach, but their similarities lie in the fact that they are intentionally different from a traditional classroom. Having a teacher stand in front of a classroom and deliver information to waiting ears without allowing students to question or get involved in any way is not how 21st century students need to learn. In fact, 21st century skills cannot be acquired in that type of traditional learning environment.

When Americans were educated 100 years ago, they needed to be able to follow directions in a factory or in a field. Today's jobs, however, need a completely different set of skills. Americans need to think on their feet and problem solve. They need to be flexible and creative. They need to lead, not be led. An entrepreneurial spirit cannot be taught during the memorization of multiplication tables. Collaboration cannot be learned when a teacher does all the instruction. Charter schools and educators that use an innovative pedagogy can help educate students for the 21st century and beyond. 


18 May 2015

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