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How can I change my school system for the better?

As I was Sitting in my biotech class listening to my teacher talking about central dogma, She said something interesting; she said "you should remember this from biology freshman year. Everyone in the class said the same thing,"no I don't remember this." I wondered, why don't any of us remember anything we learned from previous years? As I pondered how my classes are structured and what we do on a day to day basis, I concluded that our schooling system values memorization over mastery. We are told to know a general set of knowledge; then we are tested on it a few weeks later. This type of learning gives students no room to fully master or develop a passion for what they are learning so they forget it in a quick amount of time. school learning education entrepreneur classes

You make an excellent point..perhaps suggest to your teacher that teaching for mastery makes a far greater impact on student learning than does rote memory .. Gary Butler

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Deirdre’s Answer

Learning is personal. Take the initiative and do daily extended learning on your own. Forge relationships with/cold call people who are already doing the work or in the profession upon which you are studying. Ask them questions. Ask your teachers to expound and clarify any uncertainties. Don't give up!
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Patricia R’s Answer

Jeffrey – You’ve asked a very big question, and you’ve received some very big answers. The solution you seek is definitely a big one. Generally, a change this big would need to happen in (generally) one of two ways: A small event or situation happening many, many times – kind of like a water torture that could drive a person insane just from the constant drip, drip, drip of water on his forehead. (Small, persistent action over a long period of time resulting in large effect – insanity.)


A very large influence over a very short period of time – such as the 9/11 attacks. That was really BIG! The ripples are still spreading out from that one, and it’s not all good.

It might not sound encouraging to face that much of a challenge, but there is hope on a smaller, more achievable scale.

A few suggestions: See below

3. There are, of course, a bazillion more things you can do, but time and space here are limited. You are not.

By changing how you, as an individual, approach learning, it can make a difference in how you will be taught. Chicago Public Schools is too big to change at the speed that would do you the most good. But you can change yourself, and probably have an effect on some other people around you.

Good luck.

Patricia R recommends the following next steps:

1. Make yourself a better student. Ask your teacher for a trade-off of four days of lecture (or what ever the preferred method-of-delivery is) for one day of open questions and discussions. Then ask questions such as: a. What kind of technology is used to measure Global Climate Change? b. How do we know the instrumentation can be trusted? c. What are the scientists actually measuring? d. Would it really be so bad for the Earth’s temperature to rise? Then - Try to provide some answers (or at least new information) for the next discussion.
2. Connect what you did in one class (on one day) to a totally different area. Such as: a. Biotech to Social Studies (or whatever it’s called these days): How do the technology and information from worldwide health organizations affect the movement of large numbers of people during a pandemic? (Currently happening with the coronavirus from China – January 2020)
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Lauren’s Answer

I think that in order to gain mastery over any subject, the learner has to be exposed to the subject numerous times through multiple avenues. It takes years of study to truly gain knowledge and awareness on a subject. If there is a way for subjects to be taught through a scaffolding process, where things build upon each other, then I think that students will be in a better position to absorb what it is that they are learning. Many subjects being taught in school are only focused on for a few weeks at a time and then the unit is closed and they move on to another area of focus. I think that is why so many students do not retain information over the years because in the grand scheme of things they only spent a short amount of time on it.
I think that starting clubs before or after school is a great way to allow more time for students to delve into subjects that capture their interest.
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professor daniel’s Answer

Students don't any of us remember anything we learned from previous years, due to the

METHOD of teaching. Words (lecture) without experiential involvement teaching is a Lose-Lose interaction. You hear it once and maybe make a note, and never practice the new knowledge.

Long term retention of this method is negligible.

It is comparable to giving a 5 year old only a Powerpoint presentation on learning to ride a bike. :-)

I wholeheartedly agree with you professor... Gary Butler

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Cynthia’s Answer

Students who learn (and are evaluated) based on what they have memorized, should consider asking their instructors to model their expected responses as well as engage them ( their students) in practicing and writing anticipated responses. Even in this technological era, students still best learn and retain information when they participate in creating it.
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Daniel’s Answer

Rote memory was primarily a strategy used within our teaching and learning past and adds little valve in the global educational operation required in today's learning environment. The process of teaching and learning has evolved in more than learning the process of memorizing a fact. Today's educational institutions it's role is to assist students in the art of understanding how and why of a concern or problem that supports a broader platform of knowledge. Act of putting together a puzzle is just one step in its completion of a task. It is the why and meaning to it makeup and designed that support a boarder level of knowledge.

Teaching students the higher forms related to the hierarchy of knowledge is a recipe that speck of one's own ability to grow with the framework of a highly respected learner with the ability to transfer that knowledge to their students.
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Katherine’s Answer

You definitely have noticed a problem with the school system. Since the teacher is not likely to change, maybe you and your friends can form study groups.
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alan’s Answer

Much of our educational system is built on an 19th century model. However you have 21st century tools to build a usable understanding of what is offered in class. Key words in a class lecture can lead to important google searches that give meaning to school work.
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Simeon’s Answer

A lot of making a difference in your school system starts with you making your own small difference on a personal level. Find the things you enjoy about class and let your curiosity guide you to books and videos on the topic. It makes a teacher's day to hear that you've really engaged with something they're teaching about in class.
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Jennifer’s Answer

You have gotten some good advice here. I would just add this resource on designing your life. It's a TED talk at Stanford by professor and author, Bill Burnett. It may seem like a lot of information to take in all at once, so watch it as lowly or as much as you want!
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Joan’s Answer

While memorization is necessary sometimes for understanding such as vocabulary, it has to be taught with application. Perhaps completing an activity related to the concept will help with retention and more importantly understanding of the process, application. Also since memorizing is necessary sometimes but admittedly boring, create a tune, poem, or funny sentence to help you retain the info. My 6th grade students love games. After introducing words (15 at a time) you can bet they are ready to learn the words so they can stay in the game!

Joan recommends the following next steps:

Have a positive attitude about your learning.
Know that you are the owner of the information.
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Keely’s Answer

The education system you are learning in today is NOT an ideal one, designed purposefully from the ground up with clear, consistent goals. It has evolved gradually over time out of prior models of education, and has been influenced by competing (often conflicting!) interests throughout its history. This has produced a system that isn't really great at producing meaningful learning, particularly in higher grades, for many/most students.

This is such a big, deep topic, and if you talk to ten different people you may get ten different answers about what's wrong with the education system and why--even if you asked them to focus specifically on your question of why learning is memorization based rather than focused on mastery depth.

Here is my answer: Teaching people to memorize is easy. We know how human memory works, and we have good tools for developing it. Flashcards are still pretty excellent technology for this. And testing whether people have memorized something is easy. Those are right and wrong answers--you can use a multiple choice or short answer test, and even grade it with a computer!

Helping people develop content knowledge and related skills in a deep, lasting, meaningful way that allows you to use the knowledge in new situations is hard. It can't be done through lecture alone, usually--it requires things like activities, projects, discussions, writing assignments with lots of meaningful feedback, and sometimes one-on-one discussions with a teacher or tutor. That's really, really hard to do in a class with 30-40 kids and 1 teacher! And testing that kind of knowledge and skill is even harder! It takes real skill and a lot of time to write assessments that do that, and usually a lot of time to grade them and give meaningful feedback. You can't do that very well if you teach 2-3 classes and ~150 kids every day!

You ask how to make it better. I think the answers to that are complicated, and I don't think it helps you for me to tell you my best guesses. But the steps below are how I've learned more about this.

Keely recommends the following next steps:

Research the history of education reform
Research "cognitive psychology" and "learning sciences" to find out what we know about how humans learn best
Look at the learning standards for your classes -- each state has a list of what you "should" learn in, for example, biology. Are you learning those things?
Research who makes learning standards, and what their goals are.
Fight for better funding for education, smaller class sizes, better training for teachers, and more respect for teaching as a profession
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alan’s Answer

In 1972 Beachwood, Ohio decided to develop a 21st century curriculum in their middle school. CBS did a White Paper Report on the this new open concept curriculum. I had the privilege to be the counselor in this creative school. Students were engaged in an active, new and challenging curriculum. Teachers created activities that students taught by doing. We didn’t need to take attendance because every student showed up every day. In fact I had to drive a student to the hospital because she came to school with a broken arm so she could participate in her class project.

We know how to educate based on 21st century ideas but we cling to our 19th century system. A sad commentary on Beachwood’s lack of commitment was they now have returned to the old egg crate format for teaching.

I hope that you can fight for students right to a 21st century classroom.