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SCIS students are learning how to learn

TWENTIETH century education is based on a model where the teacher presents material that the student absorbs, the student is tested on this and then his or her progress is reported to the parents.

However, as our world is changing, the Shanghai Community International School finds that education must change with it to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

The material that our students must know for success, even in college, let alone in their career, hasn't even been developed yet.

Therefore, the philosophy of 21st century education is that the one skill students need, above all others, is to learn how to learn. The better able our students are to take charge of their own learning by identifying goals, working toward achieving those goals and then communicating their progress to others, the better equipped they will be to compete in the 21st century.

So, as one step toward helping students learn how to learn, SCIS will have them map out the specific skills they will be developing during the next quarter and then have them take charge of their parent-teacher conferences at the end of each quarter.

They will show their parents their goals, evaluate how well they achieved them and show evidence to support this.

They will have work samples that will demonstrate their progress over time and because they will do the evaluating, they will gain valuable experience in taking charge of their own learning and communicating that to their parents.

When students are passive receptacles of information they lose out in the process of learning. It is said that "who does the work, does the learning."

If teachers are prying open passive heads to pour in knowledge, the teachers may be learning more than the students. A wise educator once said that school should not be a place where young people go to watch old people work.

Active participants and student-led conferences are one way of achieving that. When students take ownership of their own goals and critically review their work, and evaluate their own progress (knowing they will have to provide evidence to support their evaluation), they make much better progress than when those goals are imposed on them from the outside.

This process itself is educational. They develop self-analysis skills and become better able to identify areas of strength as well as areas needing improvement.

Student-led conferences give parents a window into that process, by making parents more informed participants.

The parent role is to be an active listener. Rather than challenge or criticize, they can focus on their child's strengths and accomplishments; notice the growth their child has made, but allow the student to run the conference.

This as much as anything encourages continued effort and confidence.

Mark Wiser is counselor at Shanghai Community International School


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