Sunday, April 5, 2015

Factory Model vs. the 21st Century Model

The past decade has seen a number of disruptions in education.  Google and Apple have been leaders in this disruption process.  The purpose of the planned disruption is to force a revolution within the education system.  To fix some of the “ills that plaque the current system.”  While many of us can debate the merits of the "ills that plague the current system", it is difficult to debate the need for continuous improvement and change. 

The factory design model, in 2015, still permeates the educational environment.  To be sure, the factory design was a valid design and did wonders for all institutions – in the1800’s!!!  Frederick Taylor, father of Scientific Management and the eventual factory system, wanted to solve practical problems that plagued factories all over the country.  He developed the four principles of scientific management.  As you read note examples of these principles in our schools:

  1. Replace working by "rule of thumb," or simple habit and common sense, and instead use the scientific method to study work and determine the most efficient way to perform specific tasks.
  2. Rather than simply assign workers to just any job, match workers to their jobs based on capability and motivation, and train them to work at maximum efficiency.
  3. Monitor worker performance, and provide instructions and supervision to ensure that they're using the most efficient ways of working.
  4. Allocate the work between managers and workers so that the managers spend their time planning and training, allowing the workers to perform their tasks efficiently.  
While I debate that all schools are truly ineffective and plagued with ills, I do admit that schools can and should continue to improve. I believe, a stumbling block to the institutional improvement and future of education, is the continued adherence to this outdated and ineffective managerial system. Like many others I believe we need a new model to follow. A model that welcomes the nature of the 21st Century student, the tools of the 21st Century as well as the needs of the 21st Century economy. In that vein I offer for debate the following principles of the 21st Century managerial model. If I could rewrite Frederick Taylor’s Scientific Management principles for the 21st Century school house they would look like:

  1. Replace measuring work/success by rote "standardization" and instead use modern social science methods to determine the most efficient way to measure specific tasks.
  2. Rather than simply teach all students the same, match student’s strengths and interests to individual capability and motivation, and teach all of them differently.
  3. Assess individual academic and skill performance, provide instruction and coaching to ensure that all students are using the most efficient ways of learning to reach self-regulation.
  4. Share the work/responsibilities between administration and teachers; teachers and students; remove the functional silo design of education, so that the TEAM can spend their time planning, learning and growing, allowing for greater performance and efficiency from all participants involved.  

Hopefully, the reader has noticed that nowhere in these principles is there any mention of digital tools.  That is because, tools (computers, laptops, tablets or any digital device) are not the needed change.  The needed change is in the design of schools.  The change is in the managerial model.