The education paradigm must shift in order for 21st century learners to graduate, land jobs, and create jobs in the future. Currently, we have many unemployed graduates who aren’t being hired to fill many jobs which do exist, especially in the “start-up” economy. There is a disconnect between what the world of work requires and what students do in their sixteen plus years of learning. It is crucial to our economic success that students begin to connect what they are learning in class to what they might do in the short and the long term in the world of work.
To close the achievement gap, low-income students need better access to learning materials. To close the digital divide, students need to be exposed to electronic devices and taught computer skills they can transfer to the working world. To close the job gap, we must get more students interested in STEM careers, especially females who are greatly outnumbered in the field. Innovative solutions for closing these gaps are governed by the teacher in the classroom, the volunteer in the community, or the parent in the home. But how much change can be done to the system if we aren’t asking for change all the way up the ladder? To close any of these gaps, we need engaging teachers, parents, community, and business leaders who can challenge students to be all that they can be, when they would rather play another video game or turn on the TV.
Traditional teachers and professors might have a limited perspective on the world of work, unless they come from industry. Clearly, both perspectives have value. If traditional teachers are around more educators who are applying what they’ve learned outside of school to curricula and learning, they will be influencing their peers as well as their students. Teaching facilitation, collaboration, and many of the new styles of teaching required in an age of technology match the way many businesses are run. Learning content can go hand in hand with these 21st century classroom skills. Consider principals and superintendents. How would an outside perspective from a leader help shape the school’s learning culture and strengthen ties to the community? Professionals from the business world can share effective practices to make the school seamless, by measuring results, communicating effectively, and inspiring even the most apathetic students.
In addition, many people who have succeeded in non-profit or corporate worlds know how to promote strong interpersonal skills, project-manage, prioritize, mobilize a team, follow-up, and inspire vision for excellence. Traditional teachers will be stronger with these people at their side, in leadership positions, and among their students, parents, and graduates. And, we might even have more internships, co-ops, jobs, and other valuable business connections as a result of this more balanced teacher make-up. In the career college space, schools like University of Phoenix have used this model. How might that same model benefit K-12 and Higher Education?
With the advent of technology, hybrid classes, and many on-line classes at the college level, students need to know that they are getting strong instruction and guidance for what they are paying. At the college level, the teacher of the future will be a coach and a guide who can impart knowledge and ask questions which will allow students to connect their learning inside of the school to the larger world outside. This context will give students the perspective they need to forge their own experiences where their knowledge, skills, and abilities can be honed. Without this, students can simply learn on their own. Let’s give them a reason to see value in interpersonal instruction which can offer far more than learning by yourself on-line.