Ideally, schools should equip students with the skills needed to survive and thrive beyond the classroom. However, most students leave school only to receive a shock at how their education has not prepared them for real-life situations. In fact, only 48% of secondary students feel that what they learn in the classroom will help them outside of school.
Real-world education engages students in problems, projects and experiences relevant to their lives outside of school. When students are given meaningful opportunities to consider and tackle relevant issues, they can develop their passions, career awareness and readiness for life after school.
There are a variety of ways to restructure educational approaches to incorporate real-world learning and help students prepare for adult, professional life:
- Rethink Who Counts as “Teacher”
The world is filled with experts, practitioners and creators from whom students can learn. Guest speakers who work in fields connected to what students are studying can offer insight on plausible applications of subject matter.
Some schools take this a step further by collaborating with professionals to offer hands-on training and mentorship to students. For instance, Philadelphia Performing Arts Charter School, offers students personalized learning opportunities with professional artists, scientists and entrepreneurs. Learners not only hear from actual practitioners but also interact with them regularly.
However, one does not have to attend an institution with such a highly collaborative model to take advantage of this approach. Resources for such collaboration are popping up all over the country. For instance, Houston-based company Nepris connects STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) professionals to classrooms. Professionals give lessons related to their jobs and even offer virtual field trips to learn about real-world work settings in their industries.
- Incorporate Project-Based Learning
Without meaningful opportunities to put problem-solving skills to work, students often lack the inspiration to make a difference or prepare for professional life. Project-based learning is a great approach to offer students opportunities to tackle real problems and learn through long-term projects and physically doing the work.
Project-based learning is ideally executed both inside and outside the classroom. Students might plan a trip to learn geography and social studies or organize a fundraising event to learn about budgeting, marketing and communicating. The East Initiative, for example, connects students in rural areas to solve problems in their communities by utilizing STEM principles. Each school participates in a different project, identifying their communities’ needs and working together to meet those needs.
- Harness the Power of Technology
Educators can take advantage of technological advances to simulate real-world situations in the classroom. If used effectively and strategically, technology holds the potential to give students access to the skills they need to be competitive in the job market.
For example, companies like Riipen work with businesses to create projects that consist of actual challenges or opportunities that educators can implement in the classroom. For instance, students might use tablets or computers to design a zoo, researching floorplans and animal needs to inform their decisions. Students working together on a project might also utilize project-management software like Trello or Asana to improve their communication and teamwork skills.
- Emphasize Collaboration
Teamwork is an important skill for students to develop, and the individualized nature of traditional homework and grading practices can make it difficult for them to develop collaborative skills. Real-world learning emphasizes collaboration and teamwork by providing students with opportunities to partner up with other students across the globe.
Collaboration also gives students opportunities to participate in actual research and public service with large-scale impact. Take, for instance, #Decarbonize, a UNESCO-funded project aimed at engaging students across the globe to address climate change. Or consider the Monuments Project, which engages students from all over the world in collaborative, historical research and writing about World War I veterans buried in American cemeteries abroad.
When students are motivated to solve problems together, they hone their teamwork skills, develop their passions and engage real-world situations to prepare them for the future.
Learn more about Lamar University’s online Master of Education in Administration program.