Teaching More Thinking Over Production

K-12 curriculum is largely focused on content-driven teaching and learning. By being “content-driven,” I mean, for example, focusing on a student’s ability to solve algebraic equations, recall historical information about the American Revolution, recite Newton’s Laws of Motion and the like.

The reason content-driven teaching and learning is ubiquitous in education is obvious: results and achievements are measurable. When the main focus of education is content, you can determinately measure the effectiveness of a teacher and easily evaluate the success of students. While this is understandable, and perhaps even necessary, there is one glaring issue. There are lessons we should be teaching students that cannot possibly fall under a “content-driven” model, at least not in their entirety.

What I’m referring to are soft skills, such as digital citizenship, empathy, communication and self-awareness. The value of these moral skills are at least as necessary for students. The question is: What are you doing in your classroom to foster these soft skills?

While it might initially seem difficult to work these skills into course curriculum, there are examples of individuals who are having success. For reference, see Devorah Heitner’s post on how to teach digital citizenship and her Mentorship Manifesto.

Diana Graber, co-founder of CyberWise, is another example of someone specializing on topics related to “how technology impacts human behavior.”  Diana’s solution to this issue was a middle-school media literacy program, entitled “Cyber Civics.” Cyber Civics emphasizes critical thinking, ethical discussion and decision making about digital media issues… all through role-play, hands-on projects and problem solving tasks. She’s seen great success with her impact on classroom curriculum. Her course is currently taught at schools and districts in over 20 states across the country, as well as internationally.

While the content-driven model of education is understandable, it does not present a complete solution to the topic of the formation of K-12 students. The shaping of intellectual abilities and horizons should not negate a focus on morals.

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