Curriculum redesign may be just what higher education needs

[This article was first published in Chief Learning Officer. You can view the original article here!]

After graduation, students have to use their classroom knowledge to build a career, but many professionals say students lack the intangible skills they need to transition into a professional setting. Charles Fadel, founder and chairman of The Center for Curriculum Redesign, and chair of the Education Committee of the Business and Industry Advisory Committee, said the goal of education should be to teach students how to navigate the professional world.

His new book, “Four-Dimensional Education: The Competencies Learners Need to Succeed” presents an innovative approach to 21st century learning. Chief Learning Officer caught up with Fadel for a short interview.

Chief Learning Officer: What is traditional curriculum design like now, and what would a curriculum re-design look like?

Charles Fadel: Traditional curriculum begins with setting the overall goal, creating the standards and how you measure that goal, assessments, the curricula and professional development — training teachers. A re-design will pay more attention to new disciplines — media/journalism, entrepreneurship, coding etc. — and competencies — creativity, ethics, leadership, etc. A new curriculum is real-world relevant for employability and for life. It comprises all four dimensions that make people successful: knowledge — old-curated, modern-incorporated — skills, character and meta-learning.

CLO: Why has education been so slow to change away from Industrial Revolution learning models?

Fadel: Everyone gets comfortable in a certain way. All the systems get tweaked in a way that has served us since the industrial revolution. We have adapted but with that adaptation comes inertia. We have systems that are tweaked for an industrial model and not for a digital economy. In an age of search, fact-based knowledge is still important but not as important as the competencies we need to understand and use that knowledge like critical thinking and meta-learning — learning how to learn — as well as behave and engage in the world — character.

CLO: How can expert academics partner with professional leaders to create a curriculum that will ensure students succeed once they enter the workforce?

Fadel: Training only fills short-term needs for the company. It’s very useful to think about education in terms of horizons; short-term, medium and long term. In the short term things like certification — EMT, coding, etc. — will be quick and allow you to find a job immediately. Medium-term is to develop a lot more apprenticeships in partnership with higher education and schools. Here, students can adapt their education to what they feel is a necessity in the workplace. Long-term we have to rethink the “what” of education from the ground up, for employability and for life.

CLO: What are some of the skills professionals say are missing from students entering the workforce?

Fadel: Professionals today are looking for creativity, critical thinking and character, ethics, courage etc. You cannot learn to be courageous by sitting in a classroom reading about Greek authors speaking about courage. It’s really about going out and practicing these competencies. Out-of-class activities, you see this in leadership training; it’s very much experiential. It matches the ethos of the corporate training world. Everything can be learned.

CLO: How can educators teach students to navigate an ever-changing world?

Fadel: We have to revisit the knowledge that gets taught. Old curriculum crowds out new curriculum that really matters. For instance, we have little time left to devote to new disciplines such as media, entrepreneurship, robotics, coding, etc. Then, there is the intersection between disciplines and competencies; how can you be more creative in robotics; how can you think more critically in history; how can one be more courageous in sports; resilient when learning mathematics? Finally, above and beyond that we must continuously learn to adapt via meta-learning abilities; monitoring your own thinking.

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