Ask why: A four part series exploring traditional practices in education

We all make assumptions about the way learning in school is organized. When we pause to ask why, we can learn from students and educators who are advancing new and different visions.

Take, for example, our notion that rote memorization is a good strategy for learning. Who doesn’t remember the experience of cramming for a test—and then forgetting it all as soon as the test was over? And yet, for generations, this has been a core feature of school experience and expectation.

Given how the world has changed, how useful is this approach to learning now? In a world where information is at our fingertips, how might our approaches to learning need to evolve?

The good news is there are already hundreds of public school communities and districts around the country reimagining what education can look like when we shift away from passive ways of learning, like rote memorization and move towards active learning experiences. Active learning can look different in each classroom. Many New Hampshire classrooms have embraced active learning for years through meaningful assessments, Extended Learning Opportunities, and even summer school programs.

This story is the first in a four-part series, co-produced by ATTN and 180 Studio, that is designed to invite us all to “Ask Why.” In the video below, we invite you to consider some of the ways in which schools and policies could be remodeled to match the wisdom and need of the modern era. What does it look like when school and educators focus not just on basic principles and concepts, but also on the application of knowledge in new and complex situations?

Additional resources to explore:

Why Does Memorization Reign Supreme in Traditional Learning?
Ulcca Joshi Hansen from Education Reimagined provides the research and history around the “why” of America’s education traditions and invites all of us to explore the possibility of something new.

Decoding Deeper Learning in the Classroom
American classrooms are changing. Educators are using different labels and slightly different approaches, but there’s a common thread—making learning more relevant, rigorous, and effective for students. This guide from the Hewlett Foundation is an introduction to Deeper Learning.