01 June 2011

The Education Cycle

Let's look at a typical business proeject cycle. It looks something like this:

There are more complicated models, but this one is nice and simple and covers its bases.

Now let's look at a comparable education cycle. It might look something like this:

It is a problematic model. One might even argue that it is not a cycle at all:

Now it is easy enough to argue that these three images paint a very unrealistic picture of how education works. And the argument would be right. Much planning and work takes place outside the classroom. The instructor has to plan and develop courses, assess themselves and their courses as to what could be done better, and then bring the implementation part of the cycle to the classroom.

In this model, the classroom operates more like the shop floor, tackling one task at a time according to a plan handed down by management. But that is exactly the problem.

The classroom is not the shop floor of learning. It needs to be an active and collaborative process of managing the education of all participants. But, unless we turn the entire process of education over to the students (which, like an anarchist state, is a great idea on paper but not all that practical in actual implementation) we can't just grab a traditional business project cycle as our model for how to develop effective educational systems.

That is not to say business models can't help us think about education. It is just to say that like a good business, we need to be looking at 21st Century high-tech models, not early 20th Century industrial models.

The way we do that is by bringing both development and implementation into the classroom. Which is to say, we plan and develop courses and academic resources that can dynamically adapt to the needs of that particular classroom. Then we build on that. In other words, we need a much more agile approach to education.

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