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Shaping the Next Generation

By Joanne Askew, Lower School Science

What best describes the future member of the workforce? A person who is a problem-solver, a person experienced in persistent critical thinking.  The future needs members of society who can apply their education in real-life situations, who works well with others.  Someone who can communicate their ideas, knows how to explore others’ ideas, and collaborate to include both.  A person who innovatively,  and creatively, applies education in the real world.  

How best do we shape that person?  By providing an arena where subject-area knowledge can be transformed in a real setting.  Project-based learning and Challenge Based Learning formats have proven to do just that. One major study (Conley, 2005) provides us with a consistent perception that simple academic knowledge in core content areas is not enough.  The study  finds that people entering the workforce, along with employers, desire a more holistic approach to implementing the educational experience.  People are desperately seeking to be, and to employ, a person who is experienced in application of acquired knowledge. 

By by providing young people the format to explore ideas that revolve around real world issues, we expand their circle of knowledge. To expose them to situations, during their academic career, we provide them with a setting that enhances their use of the skills listed above.  Real world scenarios that enable them to work with community leaders and business people, explore options not in a text book, apply communication skills, work collaboratively on ideas, manage time, and all the while make a difference, are what prepare them for college, careers, and life.  

Being presented with a challenge, or developing one, enables young people to go through the steps in critical thinking: identify a problem, investigate information,  explore points of view, evaluate and if needed restructure, and apply/implement solutions. While implementing the steps, they are also experiencing self-expression. When possible, reporting data collected also provides them with the opportunity to communicate both findings and results to an audience. 

Aren’t we all interested in surrounding ourselves with young people, team members, and coworkers who have experienced these situations?  Communities, in fact the world, need leaders who work together to inspire, create, and cause change.  

References: Conley, D. T. (2005) College knowledge: What it really takes for students to succeed and what we an do to get them ready.  San Francisco: Jossey-Bass

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