Bob Lenz: “Are we really teaching our students how to cope with Life?

The American specialist presented his revolutionary educational “project-based learning” in Valencia, at the Forum organised by Caxton College.

 

Are we preparing our students adequately to tackle professions that do not yet exist?  What skills should they have in order to meet the challenges of a constantly evolving world?  What new skills will teachers have to apply in the classrooms of the 21st Century?  These were just some of the many questions that Professor Lenz, Head of the Buck Institute for Education, posed at the 1st Forum for Educational Innovation, organised by the British school Caxton College, in collaboration with the La Caixa Social Project.

“The world has changed dramatically in the last few years. However, schools are quite distanced from that change.  They continue to offer monotonous classes based on memorising material, rather than creativity,” states the Californian professor.  “When we talk to executives, they tell us about what kind of professionals they hope to incorporate into their companies.  And I assure you that they do not want machine-like people, doing repetitive tasks.  For those tasks, robots already exist, and they will soon eliminate many different jobs.  Companies want creative, critical, reflective, collaborative people.”  But, are schools educating our children to be this way?

Bearing in mind that the working world is increasingly based on projects, and that it is highly collaborative and creative, it makes a lot of sense to prepare students for that professional reality.  That is why, continues Lenz, “the main axes on which our pedagogy is based are communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity”.

And so it is that this learning model, that was born on the West coast of the United States, has for many years been, in the words of Professor Lenz, a remarkable success among American schools who have implemented its dynamics.  “100% of the students who decide to go to University, after studying at a school using Project Based Learning, graduate without any problems.Collaboration or communication, explains this leader in the field of educational innovation, cannot be learnt from books. They are learnt by using them.  “Students are faced in class with intellectual challenges that seek to develop their motivation.  In addition, they also learn to apply techniques that will be very useful later on for managing their lives and their professions. This pedagogy ensures that students become more involved in classrooms, even those that do not excel with the conventional curriculum.  Parents are also involved and committed to this methodology.  Our reports and statistics just go to prove this”, says Lenz.This educational model, endorsed by many famous personalities including renowned American film director George Lucas, allows students to enjoy their classes with their teachers.  It is a model that strengthens the curriculum without departing from it, but requires greater collaboration between parents, teachers and students.  “One of our main missions at the Buck Institute in California is to help teachers to provide their students with an education that will lead them to success in their professions and in their lives,” he explained.Many teaching professionals attended the conference, and they had numerous questions for the speaker.  Among them, one of the most important was a query about the current emphasis on exams.  “With our system, we try to help the children to acquire knowledge, without placing so much importance on how much they know.  But we do know that what they learn is engraved on their brain forever, because it is linked to their experience.  It is proven that six hours after an exam, the student has forgotten almost everything learned.  Maybe he got a good grade in the exam, maybe he even acquired a lot of knowledge, but he just regurgitated it onto paper and little or nothing now remains inside him.  Therefore, what is important is not what students know, but what they do with what they know,” warned Lenz.

Before leaving Valencia, and thanking Caxton College for their pioneering work in educational innovation, Bob Lenz concluded that, “in order to face what the future of education will bring, the past is not always our best guide”.

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