Friday, December 19, 2008

What's Missing from Education?

Traditionally, schools have tried to address three aspects of student development - knowledge, skills, and dispositions. Today, we have to add a fourth - application. It is no longer enough to have knowledge, skills, and dispositions if you don't do anything with them.

Applying knowledge, skills, and dispositions is called design innovation. Designers are innovators, entrepreneurs, people who take action - who make things - who change the world.

Action/application has been missing from schools for so long that many think first about "service learning" because that has been one way to try to have students actually do something with what they are learning. Service learning is great but it is often an artificial activity separate from their day to day schooling.

In the agrarian past, students learned how to apply skills outside of school as a regular process of growing up on farms, helping out in family businesses, and working to help support themselves. Such opportunities are harder for students to find today so schools have tried to step in by providing internship programs, apprenticeships, service learning, competitions, and other ways to help students learn to apply what they are learning.

Design education is, by its very nature, directed at creating a better world for others. It goes beyond becoming aware of problems to actually trying to do something positive to solve them. Knowing what to do, having the skills, and being aware of the problems needs to be taken to the next level - application through design innovation.

Education today must address knowledge, skills, dispositions and application (design). Adding design education provides relevance, motivation and satisfaction to learning.

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