Yesterday I had the pleasure of a visit with my best friend. She’s an occupational therapist who works in a hospital in Toronto and one of the best things about our relationship is that we can talk for hours about virtually anything. Near the end of our visit, we got on to the topic of work and it was interesting to hear her take on what’s important in education. Sometimes this can be a tricky topic with people who are from outside the world of education, but what she said really resonated with me.
My friend has gone through four years of undergraduate work at university, completed her masters in two years and has now worked in her field for three years. It was interesting to hear that she believes that her years doing graduate studies really prepared her for what she would face in a workplace situation. She described how her graduate classes were full of discussion based lessons where the students were presented with scenarios and had to problem solve together to find the best course of action. She said of course that there were exams, presentations and other various assessment tasks, but what really helped her was being able to logically discuss the issue with her peers and then work together to determine how to best tackle a situation. It was really interesting to me as a classroom teacher to listen to her talk about her graduate experience. All the skills and ideas that I believe to be paramount in education (problem solving, critical analysis, discussion, creativity, cooperation, consensus, etc.) she praised as skills that have helped her be successful both in her education as well as professional career. She then went on to say that if she has an issue or is unsure of a course of action, she is able to talk to one of her colleagues about the situation and they work together to find a course of action that is suitable and appropriate for her patient.
Listening to her discuss these skills made me think. Shouldn’t this be more of a focus in high school education? Why should we force our students to wait until they are in graduate studies to have our students become proficient in these skills? I think there is a shift towards this kind of thinking in education, but I don’t think we are fully there yet. My question then becomes how do we take the focus off of skills like memorization and regurgitation to concentrate more on authentic and practical life skills? How do we facilitate a larger scale change away from content based learning to more of a skill set based learning? I know these are rather large pedagogical based questions for a Sunday morning during summer holidays but when I hear people in the world of work discussing the importance of these particular skills, it makes me think about the grand picture in education… Feel free to comment back with your thoughts and opinions.