The Importance of Transferable Skills

Picture this, beginning of freshman year in high school and I am trying to navigate my way through the new system of proficiencies. Having taken 3 high school classes the previous year I thought I had some idea of what I was getting into, and I might have, but for the implementation of proficiencies.

Through my experiences in my freshman year has come a new understanding of the proficiency system and the ideals around which it was created: personalization, more opportunities to get credit for outside learning experiences, and updating education to the 21st century.

I managed to stumble through freshman year and began to formulate a rough plan for the rest of my time in high school, a personalized plan. Then when I began talking to people about my plan I found out that my plan wouldn’t work. You might ask why if proficiencies personalize your learning experience. The answer to that question is content, the requirements for graduation are based around content and even more specific content than in the old Carnegie system


So with a new system and a new world why are we clinging so strongly to ideals from more than 100 years ago?

People are scared of change that has been and will continue to be a fact, but sometimes change is necessary. This is one of those cases where change has become necessary. The world has changed to a place where skills and flexible thinking are more important than memorizing information so our education system must mirror that. The requirements to graduate from schools and therefore what students learn in schools needs to be based around the transferable skills, what I like to call “life skills”.

Basing the graduation requirements around transferable skills will not only improve the education that people are receiving to something more worthy of the 21st century, but will also give students more freedom to pursue a more personalized path. Replacing required content with required skills will give students the opportunity to take classes that are relevant to what they want to pursue in their career and life intrests. It will also give students more chances to have their out of school learning experiences recognized.

Does it scale?

There is a certain elegant chaos to the work of the Exploring Education class: We’ve reached a point where students are deep enough into their personal projects that they do much of their own planning and know roughly what they have to do each class.

As they’ve dug deeper into their topics of interest, they’ve become more engaged and self-motivated, and new opportunities continue to appear: Each time they talk to someone new, that person has shares new resources, other contacts, or a cool idea that changes the student’s thinking. This is the best kind of education: Student interest and authentic content is motivating them to learn.


The question of scalability has some up with some of our students’ projects. In introducing more flexible learning spaces in the school, students are creating a pilot classroom that will have collaborative space for project-based learning, sit/stand desks, more comfortable seating, and adjustable lighting. Their work is going along smoothly, so we’re now asking them: How can this scale up? What steps can they take to make sure that this one cool pilot classroom doesn’t just remain one classroom?

The question is one we should ask about the Exploring Education class as well: How will we scale it up, beyond this first cohort of seven students? What does this sort of learning look like with twenty students? What about 300?

Jim Shields, a long-time teacher at South Burlington’s Big Picture Program, has a relentlessly positive outlook on the capabilities of school systems to accommodate more project-based, personalized learning. In responding to the critique that programs like Big Picture South Burlington must be small by design, Jim points to The Met High School in Providence, Rhode Island, which supports over 800 students in highly-personalized, highly-relevant learning.

Fortunately for us, our change is not nearly that big. We have a small seed in our Exploring Education class, and a first step in helping the impact grow is to support the students’ work. Seeing and hearing about their good work will draw more students into the fold.

In the same way that making one pilot classroom space is easier than transforming all the classrooms, supporting seven students in this style of learning is easier than supporting fifteen or twenty… But the goal isn’t to give the power to shape their school to just these seven students; It’s to give it to all of them.



The Implementation of Individualized Learning

Project Based Learning at Lamoille

School Change
The question I am faced with the most is “why”. Why should schools change? To answer that question, I am faced with countless dead ends, an example being the people who asked why are often the people who believe schools should not change. I have come to the conclusion that our society is frightened of change. We live in a time where we look at people’s degrees, rather than how well and capable they are of learning. We live in a world where our SAT scores are more important to our lives than our willingness and interests in learning. We are so obsessed with what will place us higher in the society, we overlook what will be best for us, what will be the best for ourselves as an individual. Education is not something everyone has the capability to do the same way so why should it be taught the same. The freedom to learn in a way that best suits you is sorely lacking in this day and age.

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Project Based Learning
My plan to change education is to implement a program that is completely project based. Project Based Learning is a format of learning that puts the students in the driver’s seat and allows them the freedom to learn anything they so choose. The way we get students in charge of their learning is molding the criteria we want them to learn into something interesting to them. Therefore the project would be on something they like doing. The students would achieve their proficiencies through a series of projects over the course of a year. The students create their own timeline, they have specific dates on where they would like to be with their project. The students meet with their teachers frequently for guidance and so the teachers can make sure the student is staying focused. The student typically does 2-3 projects a year, the finished product is a physical representation about how the project has affected them and what they learned. They also present their project to a whole bunch of people almost like a science fair.

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How & Why
If I am being completely honest, This is the future of learning I truly believe this will be where every school is going to end up in the near future . The smart thing to do would be to implement a pilot program now to work out the kinks, rather than to implement it all at once. If we implement a program now then we can “simply” enlarge it to a whole school thing. The important thing is to keep the student to teacher ratio as small as possible. The smaller the ratio the more the teachers can weigh in on the students learning. This would be very beneficial to the students because the teacher would no longer be a powerful superior who tells you what to do, rather a guide who helps you through tough journey to a better education. This program allows students to be whatever they want to be. Most students come out of high school and even college not knowing what they wanted to do. With this program or something similar these students can experiment with things they are interested in doing over time and not deciding what they want to be all at once.


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The Evolution Of Education

In the beginning of the Exploring Education class I did not know what to expect. I came into it thinking that I would learn about teaching and how education works. After the first day I found out I was wrong. The Exploring Education class is much more, it is a class that is used to make schooling and learning a more fun and involved topic. This may sound odd but being a student that personally did not like the way schooling was done I was extremely excited for this new opportunity to change our school.

It began with proficiencies. Not many people knew what that truly meant at the time… some still don’t, but I wanted to know more. So I asked my teachers and our principal questions that most students wanted answered and I learned that this new system was amazing. It is a step forward in the world of education! Even if our school and most others haven’t perfected the Proficiencies it is still quite exciting to try to get involved with this type of grading as it is a step in the right direction to ignite the love for learning!

The old grading system in my view is not fair to students. To compare students and grade them on what the average student is doing is not learning! SAT’s, GPA’s and other tests are non personal and are blinding to students. Most high school student don’t care about what they are learning about. They care for their GPA and how they look to colleges, this is more important than actually learning the facts.

After a few weeks of being in the Exploring education class I realized that change doesn’t come quick. To change something is a process and it requires lots of work. Me being a sophmore in highschool makes me eager to make change happen. But before the change could happen we needed the support from students and teachers. This may sound easy, but  it normally is not. To change a way a person has been graded his or her entire life is hard. It’s difficult to be given a power in your school and try to use it… I believe that the students being given the power to change the way they learn and how they learn intimidates teachers and students alike.

Pile of Five BooksAs we progressed in Exploring Education, I learned more and more about schools across the country trying new and improved ways of learning. Some schools are doing PBL (Project Based Learning), and some are doing no numeral grades and teachers write reviews and reflections to show the students talent and work. So I became invested in learning these alternative ways of learning, what really caught my eye was the PBL and how the students enjoyed to learn and the teachers took a “step back” and let students be more independent. This interested me to change the way we work: Not from rewriting worksheets but by making a student show that they have the knowledge and work ethic to make a project. Not only for school but I feel it prepares the student for real life scenarios and work.

So deciding Project Based Learning is what I wanted to pursue in this class we began to go to other schools doing similar things to what our school is doing. This is a point in the year I believe that I began to truly understand education. Visiting these other schools they showed the flaws to their systems and showed what was working to us. This helped me decide ways that could make our school a better learning environment, for example to see some places have a comfortable place to sit and learn without stress was enlightening, I listened to principals having to change things about PBL. I got to hear students like me be truly excited for the school day and enjoying the work that they are doing.

So looking at what Lamoille needs I believe that Project Based Learning is the push that Lamoille needs to energize learning and teaching in our school. I have talked to students and teachers and most have agreed that this would be a great program to implement in our school. So my ultimate goal for the exploring education class is to bring PBL to Lamoille and to change our school for the better.


Welcome to Exploring Education!

Welcome to the Exploring Education class blog!

Exploring Education is a new class at Lamoille, supporting students in learning about schools and elevating their voices to make our school better. 

Through the course, students have visited other schools, skyped with other students, and interviewed teachers and students in their own school. In gaining that insight, students have begun to focus in on areas of personal interest to them in our school. 

The students are now working on creating proposals for change in those areas, tackling such difficult and complex questions as: How can we bring more independent, hands-on learning to our students? How can we make learning spaces more comfortable and collaborative? How can we communicate the new grading system more clearly?

This blog will serve as a space for them to share their insights on their journey to answering these questions, so stay tuned!