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The Future of Education, By Kelley King, Head of Lower School

Kelley King KOLOT new photoDear Parents,


During a recent visit to see my daughter in Manhattan a few weeks ago, we made the trip up to Bryant Park to spend some time in the New York Public Library’s recently re-opened Rose Reading Room. What a stark reminder of how much has changed since 1911! I snapped a few pictures to show you some rows of bookshelves that, while beautiful, now stand empty.

As I stood there in the Rose Reading Room, I thought about the “Campus Master Plan” that SDJA is currently developing – a plan that will help us identify and prioritize important capital improvements across our campus to meet the needs of the future. In August, the three Division Heads were asked to share some thoughts on the future of education that could inform the planning process. I crafted the following piece – credit for which goes to many education thinkers and which is shaped as well by my own perspectives and beliefs:

rose-1Exponential Growth in Information:

The vast and ever-expanding amount of information available, the many varied formats of that information, and its easy accessibility has made it impossible for schools to continue doing what they have been doing for decades. This shift has demanded that schools put less emphasis on memorization of information and greater emphasis on being able to find information, critically evaluate it, and apply it in real-life ways.

Shift from Teaching to Learning:

Historically, education has been more focused on the act of teaching than on the act of learning. Traditionally, teachers stand in front of the classroom and impart the information to the students. Teachers have typically been the ones to define students’ learning goals. Many teacher evaluation processes still focus more heavily on what teachers do during a lesson, as opposed to how well their students learn.

As systems shift to heavier emphasis on learning, instruction will become more personalized, student-centered and collaborative. The teacher’s role will shift to serving as a guide and coach versus the “sage on the stage.” Students will take the lead role in the development and evaluation of their learning goals.

rose-2Increased Demand in Tech Fields:

Wages and job growth are greatest in careers that demand high level technology skills and interpersonal skills. This is creating increased emphasis on STEM/STEAM initiatives, including interdisciplinary STEM courses and STEM co-curriculars and extra-curriculars, as well as technology integration initiatives.

The Importance of “Non-Cognitive Skills:”

Students with strong non-cognitive skills (collaboration, flexibility, mediation, self-regulation, perseverance, etc.) have a significant advantage in the work force and in their personal lives. Increasingly, schools are explicitly teaching these skills and designing lessons that involve more group work and project-based learning. The importance of non-cognitive skills in schools has grown to be on par with academics and will continue to grow as we increasingly recognize the need for diplomacy, leadership, and philanthropy in our troubled world.

The Changing Drivers of Learning:

Different cultures and different generations of students are motivated differently about what they learn, why they learn, and how they learn best. We live in a society that is all about personalization and on-demand. For the children coming into our schools now, this is all they will know. Increasingly, learning will need to be authentic, relevant, differentiated and based on students’ interests, passions and beliefs.

There is something unmistakably beautiful about the past that is worthy of honor and preservation. But, in education, we must look to the furthest horizon to prepare children for a world that we do not yet know and cannot yet see. That, to me, is a most worthwhile and important pursuit.


Kelley King

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