The Journal Gazette
Thursday, November 21, 2019 1:00 am

FWCS eyes new path of learning

Consultant urges life skills-based approach

MATTHEW LEBLANC | The Journal Gazette

Students likely would cheer a goal of Michael Fullan: cure boredom in the classroom. 

Fullan is co-leader of New Pedagogies for Deep Learning, a global initiative aimed at encouraging teachers and schools to re-examine teaching methods to engage students. An expert on education reform and the author of several books on the topic, he was hired by Fort Wayne Community Schools as a consultant. 

Fullan will be paid about $100,000 a year under a three-year contract, which comes from a federal grant.

Approaches to education such as reading from textbooks and memorizing information to answer test questions are outdated, and it's time to consider thinking differently, Fullan argues. 

“The way we're doing it now isn't working,” he said before speaking Wednesday at an event organized by the school district at Grand Wayne Center. “More and more students get bored as you get up in the grade levels.”

The solution, according to Fullan and initiative colleagues? Deep learning, which they define as quality learning that “sticks with you” for life.

To accomplish that, he says teachers must change from being purveyors of information to facilitators of knowledge through collaborative projects and real-life examples. 

Challenging classmates to find a way to save a drowning swimmer is more effective than sitting through a lecture in which the teacher does most of the talking, Fullan said, using an example of how instructors can re-think their approaches. That method engages students while teaching them to communicate and work as a team – skills that are necessary in school and in life, he said. 

“In order to do this, the teacher needs to say 'I need your participation to work this out,'” Fullan said. 

The initiative began in 2012 with a meeting in Toronto, and the organization has partnered with about 1,300 schools in seven countries, according to its website. FWCS is the only district in Indiana the organization is working with.

Fullan said he has worked with teachers to make changes to instruction, and district spokeswoman Krista Stockman said this is the first year the changes have been implemented.

“What we're really trying to do is prepare students for life outside of school,” Stockman said. “Developing these soft skills are critical.” 

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