“Less Schooling, More Learning: A Better Approach Is Hidden in Plain Sight”

Originally posted in our December 2021 Top of Mind Newsletter.

Continuing on the theme of change, we often talk about how learning in the 21st century could be different. More engaging and transformative learning is possible, but many systems seem to be suffering from immunity to change. Jal Mehta, Graduate Professor of Education at Harvard, and his colleague Sarah Fine embarked on a study of the American school system. They hoped to review the practices of “good” schools. Then, they would present the findings, and use them as a means of inspiring other schools to do similar work. But, as Mehta says, it didn’t work.

In this TEDTalk, Mehta outlines the mistakes in their premise and the findings they were able to share. What was fascinating about the deep learning the students at these schools were doing was that it was not in the core classes, math, English, or science, but instead on the periphery. In clubs and afterschool activities, students were learning tangible skills and adaptive ones. They were clearly enjoying what they did instead of Mehta and Fine’s observation of bored and disheartened students in the classroom. So, what was so different about their learning in and out of the classroom?

Mehta outlines purpose, agency, community, learning by doing, and learning through apprenticeship as cornerstones of deep, active learning rather than passive schooling. All of these things can provide a framework for changing our goals in education.

Watch the talk