| Volume 64 | Number 7
The Prepared Graduate
EL Study Guide
Behind the question this issue asks—“Are our high school graduates being prepared to lead meaningful lives?”—sits the question “Are we prepared to adjust our teaching to prepare students for their roles as world citizens?” How might schools and teaching need to change and how can we meet that need for change proactively?
Helping Students Know Themselves as Learners
Mel Levine (“The Essential Cognitive Backpack,” p. 16) believes that schools must give students cognitive skills, including the skill of knowing their own individual strengths and weaknesses as learners.
- Read Levine's description of “Sally,” who “equated learning with memorizing” and gained
As by recalling and rearranging others' ideas. Have you known students like Sally? What happened when you challenged that student to engage in more in-depth interpretation and creativity, which Levine says are essential skills for surviving beyond 12th grade?
- Levine insists that students must understand whether they understand. They should cultivate the habit of “comprehension monitoring.” Do you agree that students can judge for themselves whether they are grasping key content and academic skills? Can students who receive honors for work that leans toward the formulaic judge whether they are truly learning and understanding? How could teachers help them to do so?
Try An I-Search
One way to teach students to reflect on their own learning processes is to assign some variation of an “I-search paper,” which encourages students to research a topic that excites their curiosity.1
As part of an I-search research paper, students often write several pages reflecting on how they performed their research—how they initially viewed the topic, how they chose a unique angle, how they searched for the most relevant sources of information, and so on. Students might write about which tasks involved in the project proved unexpectedly difficult and which parts flowed easily to gain insight into their own preferred learning styles.
The I-search approach could be adapted to performing a science experiment, solving a complex algebra problem, or assignments in other disciplines. Try adding this kind of self-reflective description of the learning process to one of your assignments during the remainder of the semester. Report back to the group on the results.
Creating Our Global Citizens
In “Becoming Citizens of the World” (p. 8), Vivien Stewart tells how to better educate our students about other countries. She says,
Teaching students about the world is not a subject in itself, separate from other content areas, but should be an integral part of all subjects taught. We need to ... inspire students to explore beyond their national borders.
Gather a group of willing teachers and administrators in your school to brainstorm ways you could bring an international connection—including collaboration with students from other countries—into a class or school project you have planned this semester. Consider the possibilities Stewart mentions—volunteering with an internationally-focused group, creating exchanges or projects with international students online, reconnecting your students to their heritage languages—and other ideas appropriate to your school context.
A Complete Overhaul?
Marc Tucker's summary of the New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce's recent report
Tough Choices or Tough Times outlines proposed radical changes to the U.S. education system. Discuss what you think of the recommendations for a systemic overhaul described in Tucker's article “Charting a New Course for Schools” (p. 48).
- Tucker paints a future in which students could leave high school on the spot once they passed a single test set to the standard required for basic postsecondary study in their locale—which most could do by age 16. How might the atmosphere of U.S. high schools change for the positive if Tucker's “thought experiment” came true? How might it change for the negative?
- In the system Tucker describes, students who received “somewhat higher scores” on this standardized exam could follow a more advanced academic program in their remaining high school years, such as the International Baccalaureate. What do you think of using a test score as the criteria for entrance to such programs? Contrast this with how schools in your area now choose students for programs like IB. Does Tucker's proposal seem more or less reasonable? You might also look over Carol Corbett Burris, Kevin G. Welner, Edward W. Wiley, and John Murphy's article in this issue (“A World-Class Curriculum for All,” p. 53), describing how a New York school opened its doors to its IB program.
- Do you agree with Tucker's implication (on p. 50) that recruiting candidates for teacher training programs from the top third of high school achievers is likely to produce higher quality teachers, who will then spur higher achievement from students? Are the skills youth generally draw on to succeed academically in high school the skills needed to become great teachers?
- Consider the recommendation from Tough Choices or Tough Times that independent third-party organizations should manage public schools—and that schools should have “great latitude in establishing their own particular character and . . . be encouraged to develop distinctive programs.” What advantages might this switch in school management bring? What potential headaches? Could such a change realistically happen—and what would it take?
- Look over David J. Ferrero's article “Pathways to Reform: Start With Values” in the February 2005
Educational Leadership, which suggests that U.S. communities deliberately create public schools that operate quite differently from one another. Each school would espouse its own set of core values, philosophy of education, and unique decisions about what is essential to teach. How does Ferrero's vision compare with the proposal for creating schools with unique characteristics outlined in Tucker's article in this current issue?
Macrorie, K. (1988). The I-search paper. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Copyright © 2007 by Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development