Historically, fear has been used to get students — and teachers — to comply with rigid curricula and standardized tests. It’s more than just the fear of pop quizzes for students. Educators often also fear deviating from curriculum that’s entirely focused on preparing their students for standardized tests. The end result is a learning environment entirely devoid of personal discovery and group collaboration. Educators teach to the test, and students learn only what’s covered on the test.
While the current method may have prepared students for jobs that didn’t require much independent thinking, today’s economy prizes innovation and critical thinking, both skills undeveloped in a fear-based learning environment. What’s more, the current test-centric learning environment completely neglects any sort of collaborative group work. Students are, instead, working in isolation, and competing against each other for the highest scores.
But there’s a better way: empowering students to follow their passions, express themselves and make their own discoveries with no fear. Encouraging collaborative assignments, and valuing repeatable experiences over or alongside test scores. Making this shift will also help turn these students into lifelong learners, by allowing them the freedom to follow their interests (and, eventually, innovate in the field). Doing so also transforms the role of the teacher from lecturer to facilitator.
In the end, the learning environment shifts from fear to encouragement. Listen to high school students at John F. Kennedy High School in Plainview-Old Bethpage Central School District as they describe their experience using zSpace.