Putting Students In Charge: 3 Ways the ESBC is a Model for Education Reform
Education reform is an extremely important issue. Whether it be digital classrooms or mobile learning, 21st century education reform is usually tied in some way to digital innovation. However, despite the ever-increasing presence of technology in the classroom, the most important element is the human element.
The Evangelical School Berlin Centre is a model for education reform. Here, the focus isn’t so much on grades and testing, but on cultivating adaptability and strong personalities. The focus is on producing confident students. We’ve talked at length about how managing a classroom is about letting students manage themselves. The ESBC takes this philosophy and expands it from the classroom to the entire school by using the following methods.
3 Ways the ESBC is a Model for Education Reform:
1. Giving Students Options
Instead of giving students mandates when they arrive, teachers at the ESBC give students options. Although students must take core classes like Math and German, they are also allowed to pick their electives, similar to the higher education approach. As for the courses themselves, while the school does offer more traditional ones, they also offer alternative courses called “responsibility” and “challenge.” In the latter class, students between the ages of 12 and 14 are allotted money by the school with which to plan an adventure on the grounds that they plan it entirely on their own. This puts a great amount of focus on learner autonomy.
2. Making Concepts Relevant
Making concepts relevant to students can increase their level of engagement. For example, Math has historically been a tedious subject for many students because it is often taught abstractly, with educators spouting off formulas and not grounding them in the real world. But at the ESBC, rather than take a math test to gauge their skills, students can choose to code a videogame in order to demonstrate their practical understanding of mathematical concepts. This not only makes the curriculum relevant, but promotes active learning in which the student is no longer the passive recipient of knowledge, but participates in its construction.
3. Formative Assessment
There are no grades at the ESBC, at least not until students reach the age of 15. Students can also choose when they want to take a test. This reflects a move away from summative assessment, a staple of pedagogy which places value on the end result rather than the complete experience, and towards formative assessment, where the focus is on assessing students as they are guided through the learning process. For all the skeptics out there, even without the emphasis on grades and rigorous testing, the ESBC still manages to place among Germany’s best schools annually.
Part of this success is because the ESBC recognizes the importance of education technology. The institution understands that with the internet, students have access to all the information they’ll need. It recognizes that running a school that embraces self-regulated knowledge does more than help students construct their own understanding of their environment, it helps them to better adapt to changes within that environment.
But if we acknowledge that some of the ESBC’s success is due in part to their implementation of progressive pedagogies and an understanding of how technology has changed the field of education, we must also acknowledge that some of it is due to the institution being privately funded. However, that shouldn’t undermine the value of the institution’s accomplishments. It shouldn’t stop educators from trying to follow the example set by the ESBC in some way. Even if a top-to-bottom flip of the current education system is unrealistic for some, steps can still be taken to give students more autonomy and encourage them to think creatively in the classroom.
For example, UI design solutions like LiveTiles Mosaic make it easier for educators to facilitate self-regulated learning. Mosaic allows educators with no knowledge of coding to create a digital classroom in which students have access to collaborative tools that enhance the learning experience, as the screen shot below demonstrates. Mosaic is free for any K-12 classroom with an Office 365 tenant, allowing equal access for private and public schools.
Still, whether private or public, an institution is only as good as the educators within it. In today’s digital age, students need less lecturing and more guidance. They need to be critical thinkers and creative thinkers. They need educators that trust them and challenge them. That is, they need educators willing to flip the system, or at least flip the classroom. The flip may not be as radical as the education reform in Berlin, where many different schools are implementing the methods started by the ESBC, but a little change is better than no change at all.