In science, the term “paradigm shift” applies to throwing out theories (Kuhn) that can no longer stand because research has shown them to be flawed or wrong. For a long time we thought the atom was the smallest particle possible. It’s all we could “see” with the tools that were available. New technology and science proved that theory wrong. This created a paradigm shift in world view for everyone. We’ve known for years that there are better and more effective ways to educate our children than the current school model. It takes a long time for institutions such as schools to change from the status quo, even when everyone can see that there is a desperate need to do so. Personal computers and the Internet are playing an influential role in the current paradigm shift in education but so is brain research, which started this paradigm shift over 50 years ago.
Research has shown clearly for years that many of the practices that are held tightly by traditional schools are flawed and even harmful to continue. We have the ability to do brain scans and collect data on how the brain learns. We know more about how memory works and how people process information than any other time in our history. Yet most people continue to embrace traditional education models as the “right” way.
These are the characteristics of the new educational paradigm, which began to emerge in middle of the 20th century. Compare the old paradigm with the new. What do you think about the new paradigm?
Emphasis on content, acquiring a body of right information
Emphasis on learning how to learn, how to ask questions. Pay attention to the right things, be open to and evaluate new concepts have access to information. Context is important.
Learning as a product, a destination
Learning as a process, a journey
Relatively rigid structure, prescribed curriculum
Relatively flexible structure, belief that there are many ways to teach given subjects
Lockstep progress emphasis on the appropriate ages for certain activities. Age segregation
Flexibility and integration of age groupings, individual not automatically limited to certain subjects
Priority on performance
Priority on self image as the generator of performance
Guessing and divergent thinking discouraged
Guessing and divergent thinking encouraged as part of the creative process
Emphasis on analytical linear left brain thinking
Strives for whole-brain education
Labeling contributes to self-fulfilling prophecy
Labeling used only in minor prescriptive role and not as a fixed evaluation
Concern with norms
Concerned with the individual’s performance in terms of his potential
Primary reliance on theoretical abstract knowledge
Theoretical and abstract knowledge heavily complemented by experiment and experience
Everyone is taught the same thing at the same time, by age. Emphasis on teaching
Everyone learns when they are ready, developmentally. Emphasis on meaningful learning
Classrooms designed for efficiency, convenience
Concern for the environment of learning-lighting, colors, physical comfort, needs for privacy and interaction, quiet and exuberant activities
Education seen as a social necessity for a certain time to train for a specific role
Education seen as lifelong process. One only tangentially related to schools
Increasing reliance on technology
Human relationships, teachers and learners, are of primary importance. Appropriate technology
Teacher imparts knowledge, one-way street
Teacher is a learner too, learning from students
The old assumptions generate questions about how to achieve norms, obedience and correct answers.
The new assumptions lead to questions about how to motivate for lifelong learning, how to strengthen self-discipline, how to awaken curiosity, and how to encourage creative risk
Child is passive
Child is a thinking, self-propelling,well adjusted individual
Grades as the reward/consequence
Learning as the reward, grades are secondary
“The larger paradigm looks to the nature of learning rather than methods of instruction. Learning after all is not schools, teachers, literacy, math, grades or achievement. It is the process by which we have moved every step of the way since we first breathed, a transformation that occurs in the brain. Whenever new information is integrated, whenever a new skill is mastered, learning is kindled in the mind of the individual. Anything else is mere schooling”. Marilyn Ferguson