November 13, 2013

Two recent articles have shed some new light on issues regarding education and learning. The first excerpt I am posting comes from the November 10 issue of TIME magazine, entitled, “The Real Reason New College Grads Can’t Get Hired,”  by Martha C. White:

“. . . A survey by the Workforce Solutions Group at St. Louis Community College finds that more than 60% of employers say applicants lack “communication and interpersonal skills” — a jump of about 10 percentage points in just two years. A wide margin of managers also say today’s applicants can’t think critically and creatively, solve problems or write well.

Another employer survey, this one by staffing company Adecco, turns up similar results. The company says in a statement, “44% of respondents cited soft skills, such as communication, critical thinking, creativity and collaboration, as the area with the biggest gap.” Only half as many say a lack of technical skills is the pain point.

As much as academics go on about the lack of math and science skills, bosses are more concerned with organizational and interpersonal proficiency. The National Association of Colleges and Employers surveyed more than 200 employers about their top 10 priorities in new hires. Overwhelmingly, they want candidates who are team players, problem solvers and can plan, organize and prioritize their work. Technical and computer-related know-how placed much further down the list.

Jobs are going unfilled as a result, which hurts companies and employees. The annual global Talent Shortage Survey from ManpowerGroup finds that nearly 1 in 5 employers worldwide can’t fill positions because they can’t find people with soft skills. Specifically, companies say candidates are lacking in motivation, interpersonal skills, appearance, punctuality and flexibility. . . .”

I would maintain that, regardless of subject matter, education is very late in “coming to the party.” It’s no secret that most teaching in the classroom continues to be a “lecture/reading/testing” regimen — in spite of the undeniable fact that the learning culture of young people is centered on their televisions, cell phones, tablets, and gaming.

Most people are multi-sensory learners when it comes to skills acquisition. ‘Seeing’, ‘hearing’, and ‘doing’ – in combination – is still the best way.

In fact, studies continue to reveal that using “seeing-hearing-doing” as the primary learning tools in both education and training will increase the majority of the learners’ understanding by more than 50%, resulting in 25-50% greater retention, and with a 50-60% greater consistency in content understanding – the ultimate aim of all learning.

And, so we shall see in a second interesting excerpt which comes from an August 12 piece in THE WASHINGTON POST, “What is learning, exactly?”  by Valerie Strauss:

“. . . On a philosophical level, however, many educators question whether the textbook approach is the best one for student learning. That time-honored custom is based on the assumption that everything students need to know is contained in textbooks, and learning is merely a matter of reading them, understanding, and remembering. Even if that were so, research has shown that textbook approach produces mostly short-term remembering. That is, students do well on tests immediately following textbook study or review, but in the long run they forget much of what their teachers thought they had learned.

A more significant objection to the textbook approach, however, is the growing conviction that the possession of knowledge is not synonymous with learning. Many of our most effective teachers believe that their students have to be able to adapt, apply, expand, and think critically about knowledge in order to function in the real world as wise, ethical, and productive individuals. As a result, these teachers are using one or both of two other instructional approaches to produce more successful learning. One is a “generative” approach, in which students create something new from their knowledge. It could be a play about a historical event, a survey of their schoolmates to determine their attitudes or behaviors, a set of math problems drawn from their everyday experiences, an experiment to test a popular assumption about bullying, or a poem inspired by one they’ve read.

The other approach is an “exploratory” one in which students interact with people, places, and information in terms of their own ages, interests and abilities. They do not stop at remembering facts about events, such as the American Revolution, but work on to explore the physical conditions, political forces, and individual personalities connected with them. Through field trips, watching videos, reading biographies and firsthand descriptions, and examining relics and memoirs of the times, they are able to gain a much deeper and more personal understanding than any textbook can give. . . .”

Both articles are well worth reading and I hope you can find the time to do so. For both education and training to be successful today, we’ve got to move out of the traditional classroom and its historical teaching methods while embracing the marvelous new learning opportunities that multiple-media plus hands-on experience and student interaction allows.

More on Monday – – –

— Bill Walton, Founder
ITC Learning (Mondays & Wednesdays)