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What could high schools do to improve college readiness for their students?

As a high school student i have noticed that teachers always seem to stop their lessons to let kids copy down notes, they give them too many instructions on how to do things, and do not give enough space for students to think for themselves. In my opinion things like this severely hurt these students because when they enter college, reality hits them square in the face and they all of a sudden have to grow up and think for themselves in a short amount of time. So what could be done in high schools to get kids to think more for themselves and rely less on others?

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    Oct 2 2011: Real Life beats College every time, hands down, but if you seek entry to a specific profession, that's different.

    But, to 'improve' schools, it's all about the attitudes of the people involved (personally, with the school in question - not mandates handed down from isolated halls of power or academia).
    1. Be sure that College is worthy of being "ready for". I'm not convinced that all tertiary ed courses are that great.
    2. Stop assessing learning. It can't be put in a pie-chart. Society doesn't need one-size-fits-all ANYTHING anymore.
    3. Make the lessons as authentic as possible. How does it work in life beyond school? Why? Could it be improved?

    Of course, a lot of real life can't be relayed through an accountable education delivery system (some of the good bits, a lot of the bad bits) but that's either Mum and Dad's job or stuff they'll learn in the School of Hard Knocks.
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    Oct 3 2011: Teach from source material rather than textbooks. Textbooks should be anthologies of source materials rather than filtered data. One of the best ways to set a mind on fire is to put the student through a series of lessons that puts them inside the head of a great thinker, inventor, scientist, etc. and have them relive the PROCESS of discovery to the point where they can have a lite version of the "ahah!" moment. Kids need to know that they a) have a mind and b) that it needs to be fed more than entertainment.

    Then too, teachers need to be required to make their classes interesting. Their credentials should require several blocks of drama, stand up comedy, and a course on generating enthusiasm. We need an army of Robin Williamses in our high schools.
    • Oct 4 2011: "We need an army of Robin Williamses in our high schools." hahahahaha that is funny, but i do not think schools need to go that far. You make a great point about the source material and making the class interesting. Although they don't necessarily need to make classes funny to be interesting.
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      Oct 5 2011: I agree with Walter we need to use humor more in teaching at the high school level. As an independent study teacher I use humor to relax the student so that we can focus on the work at hand. We can also use music, and art along with using dramatic arts to make lessons more interesting. We have such a broad means of presentation that it is sad that so many teachers use just stand and lecture mode to teach everything. Also, every person needs to know that they can learn the the most complicated concepts if they break it down into learnable units. Maybe we could also run school at different times of day rather than start all at the same time and end all at the same time and let students choose the times more like a college class schedule?
  • Oct 6 2011: I think Stanford is hitting the mark with its experiment in distributed learning, offering its Artificial Intelligence class online for free this semester. We need more opportunities like this, that kids can "tune in" and gain exposure to college classes on topics that they "think" they might be interested in and can see if it is an avenue/topic they want to explore further. This could have an inspirational effect of epic proportions. This is a way a kid can find their passion. That's how you solve the problem of not enough American students want to become involved in the STEM fields. It's all about EXPOSURE! Not to mention, by connecting a young student in a way that is now natural to them - via the internet. Kids today are way smarter than we give them credit for! If you build it, they will come. Case in point - when I mentioned this Stanford experiment to my 15 yr. old son, he said, "OMG! Stanford is offering an AI class online - for free? Mom - AI is the future of everything! That is awesome! Can I do it?" There I sat in my car at a stop sign looking at my 15 yr. old baby in astonishment that he even knew what AI was. I had no idea. I hope he does follow through with it. New gf in the picture now so he's distracted. I will support his decision, but encourage him nonetheless. We'll see what happens - class starts Monday...
    • Oct 10 2011: Hey Nada
      Thanks a lot for telling me about the Stanford AI class. I actually just signed up for that it looks very interesting and I do a lot of programming in school so it's something I love.
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    Oct 3 2011: I haven't seen any Comments on "Family".. from my own experience.. getting the parents involved early with guiding the students and helping them become aware of all the study requirements, and opportunities available to them far in advance, to reduce the "Shock" and bring them to a more prepared "mind-set", should help plenty.. relying on One teacher or guidance Counselor (even if it is partly their responsibility), would be Unfair to expect it to be adequate enough for a student to be fully prepared for what's ahead. As far as students being able to think for themselves, Hands on Learning*, putting what they learn into practice rather than answering questions on paper as much as possible. The detached process of "Copy Paste" teaching does not engage a students mind enough, and is boring and repetitive, though sometimes necessary, should be Avoided when possible.
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      Oct 3 2011: The trick is to get parents involved. Most parents of high school kids have thrown in the towel. They either do not have the education themselves or they are struggling with the students' drive for independence, or they just do not care. In my years of teaching hig schoolers the we just do not care has been a major theme for parents who are not college educated. They see no benefit so they just disconnect and let the students go it alone. I try to shcw all my students the work load for college and the fact that if they fail in college they just do not move on like they do in public school. I talk about how if they fail a class it is not just take it again but pay for it again. Also, some colleges have the proud reputation of being party schools, or football schools or sports schools and academics are second rate. One thing we could do is ask students what they want to do 40 hours or more a week for the rest of their lives and show them how college, trade schools, etc. can help them get there.
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    Oct 3 2011: One thing would be to get rid of all state testing, rework high schools so they are not just college mills and make them places where if a person chooses not to follow the academic road they can get a good education that prepares them for the work world ( See a TED talk on a new school style in England). There are schools that are more project based and hold students more accountable for the work over time. One is here in California and I have had the pleasure of seeing it at work. Maybe we need less push for college and university and more for whole person education and life/work preparedness. I agree they cannot think for themselves with taking notes at a high rate of speed and then taking a test that just forces short term memory and spouting the test back.Another l thought is to get the federal government out of education completely and let the states control it. Finally, shape classes so teachers do not have to teach to the lowest level in the room. Sort by academic ability and desire of the students and rotate the highly academic classes among the teachers each year. Finally, we need to realize that not every high paying job is a college degree job. Plumbers, electricians, carpenters can make great money also and we need those folks just as much as we need lawyers, doctors, and TV stars.
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    Oct 10 2011: I think high school students (too, of course from early grades, not just high school) need to learn more about ethics and citizenship :-).

    As far as I see it, US educational system needs way more in that regard. As a result, people (adults) become clueless about how to become respectful human beings. Not to mention, it becomes even harder to live with all forms of life in a sustainable manner.
    • Oct 12 2011: hey jeong-Lan Kinser
      I totally agree. I think a lot of people in the US take their education and other aspects of life for granted and a stronger citizenship and ethics education would solve that.
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    Oct 5 2011: Teach students how to not only learn, but retain information and/or knowledge, then process it into intelligence, then wisdom.

    An important distinction between the two gets overlooked in favor of what I call "academic bulimia," or the binge-memorization students engage in, only to regurgitate it onto an exam. The knowledge is then never processed for future use and development, just as regurgitated food can't be processed by the body for physical sustenance.

    A list of helpful points: take AP (Advanced Placement) classes -- as many as possible!; learn the art of studying for the purpose of recall & how to cultivate proper study habits; making connections between the material & things you do care about; learning what sort of learning style best fits each individual; overcoming internal & external resistance to knowledge-accumulation (such as boredom, or distractions); how to ask questions & encouraging them to ask; the importance of speaking up in class & contributing; giving and receiving feedback on class-discussions; time management, organization, and productivity tips; and how to begin considering what career is best for you.

    Most of all, become intrinsically motivated to learn for YOU rather than external reasons such as boasting rights/praise for high grades. This is essential to ensure true, lasting motivation to learn/think for yourself.

    But your HS is unfortunately not going to be the vehicle that promotes your overall readiness for college. I embodied "disengaged-student" from K-12, and arrived at college lacking any sort of readiness for self-managed learning or true thought development because I lacked direction, focus, and thus had nothing to work hard at except enjoying freedom from parental rule. Do the opposite of those things

    So find your inspiration/goal, learn how to learn & study how to study, read more, question/discuss everything with teachers/peers without fear of being annoying, & continue asking questions like this on a site like TED.
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    Oct 3 2011: High Schools could improve critical thinking and problem solving skills. Most of the time in high school reading classes you are only looking for literary elements of a story and are hardly ever asked to look more deeply in to the story. This topic is brought forth in Francine Prose's "I Know Why the Caged Bird Can Not Read". In math you are very rarely asked to rearrange an equation to fit you need. Usually you are just given the equation. That's a problem with China's educational system. They teach them facts more than the critical thinking and problem solving skills that are so high valued.
  • Oct 2 2011: It has been my experience that you get from education what you put into it. Perhaps it is hard to see that as a student, I think it may apply to much more than school and learning. From a teachers perspective, perhaps the group meeting group goals, fairness to all students, and noticing the achievements and accomplishments of all class members is the target. However, applying group learning techniques might turn-off the highly motivated student.

    Thinking for yourself is something every student should do, otherwise you will not learn. If you want to know more about a subject, there is nothing stopping you except time and motivation to do the work to learn it on you own. It may not be rewarded by the teacher, but it will increase your understanding of material. You will find many subjects very broad and it can be a bit confusing where to start. One option is to search the internet for the information. However, not all the information is good, it is not well connected, and finding how to make the connections can take a while. Another option is to go to the library and find the information in books. If you find a few that seem to resonate with you, you may perhaps get the perspective of some smart authors. Still, the material could be dated or perhaps not very age appropriate, depending on your age, experience level, understanding of the material or perhaps related or supporting subjects.

    Perhaps you could find a mentor or some kind of guide that would perhaps learn the subjects you want to learn, stay ahead of your leaning and align the material you see in such a manner so as to have it ready for you when you are ready for it. If you can find such a person, it will probably be very expensive to pay for their time. Typically, $20-40/hr is probably about right. Still, if yo could get a few hours of their time, it might be worth it. Ideally, you might look for people that enjoyed doing that sort of thing, or perhaps made it their life's work. Good luck with your search
    • Oct 2 2011: Thank you for your perspective. I agree that learning on your own is probably the best way to approach education for the fact that i have had to when I don't understand their lectures, but what does this mean for future education? Will education gear itself more toward online courses?
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        Oct 3 2011: Bryan I hope your guess is right, and that the growing success of online courses for academics will force bricks and mortar schools to reinvent themselves so as to focus on mentoring and experiential learning and most of all social and emotional intelligence.
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    Oct 9 2011: Myself being a senior in high school, I feel as though I am taught to memorize. I mean think about - today teachers don't correlate what they are teaching their students to what happens outside the classroom. So students end up going to college feeling as though they learned nothing. In order to prepare our students today for college is to be hands on. Relate the teachings to outside subjects that can give students a better understanding of what they are being taught.
  • Oct 9 2011: This is directed towards general education and creating a holistic individual rather than preparing for college. Recommendations are idealistic and not always practical.
    1. implement a more flexible system which enable the students to shape the learning style and environment. In many schools students are responsible for forming clubs and resolving their school issues. This teaches students to be proactive, and reach out and make a difference. A huge part of this is to remove much of the bureaucracy of the school systems.
    2. teaching classes in a variety of ways. students learn differently. Some want to touch things and explore. Some need the structure and textbook. We shouldn't require all kids to conform to one type of learning, but learn the way they are most comfortable and engaged with.
    3. Large Group projects with tangibility. In my highschool I had an engineering class. We spent the whole year thinking and eventually building a tangible invention that solved a real life problem (which we picked). I learned more in that class than any other. Most of what I learned is soft skills: something that you carry for the rest of your life, and is always sought for in the workplace.
    4. More student-teach-student scenarios. In college it is likely (or at least i think it is) that you learn more from another student or by teaching another student. The number one resource should be your neighbor rather than the teacher.
    5. Restructure the curriculums. Many curriculums are stringent and poorly concieved. Example: history classes is completely Euro-centric How are our kids going to deal with issues about latin America if they aren't being taught about it in school?
    6. utilize technology:
    7. Improve school foods:
    8. Encourage unfiltered discussion in schools. Even about religion, politics. teach listening and considering.
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    Oct 9 2011: with any education, the onus for learning is on the student - not the teacher. Teachers open doors - it's up to students to walk through them and ensure they're using any and all means necessary to learn. It's an amazing time to be a student - I am right now. Some of my professors are so good at what they do, it's otherworldly, but most are not. With all the amenities available these days - Khan Academy, open course ware through Harvard, MIT, Stanford, et al - there's no excuse for any student to say "my teacher/high school/professor/college sucked and I didn't get anything out of it." If you didn't get anything out of your education, it's YOUR fault.
  • Oct 8 2011: Let students TALK and listen to them!!!
    Value students ideas or way of thinking!!
    Let students prepare class!! Let students make the exams for each other and why not for the teacher!!
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    Oct 8 2011: Helping them to use their imaginative brains- Since the Pen is mighter than Pentium in terms of bradening the thoughts & take them to the new horizon...

    Teaching Technology, Commutation & Communication leverages EFFECTIVELY - e.g Why a sales or the marketing team should go to office..coz of which the pollution is created, The fuel has become scarced & thus expensive..leading to COSTS & then Crime..thus there can be numerous diferent examples on this..

    This is what We are prepared in the Colleges for our POST Graduations or Careers..Then why not start it from High school?
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    Oct 8 2011: 2 words: Read everyday.
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    Oct 8 2011: I personally find that the best way to learn something is to jump in feet first, and I'm lucky that my highschool chemistry teacher felt the same way, and ran his class like a University chemistry course. He lectured much in the way a University lecturer would, and tested us the way we would be tested in University. He also stayed connected to students who graduated from his class, and found out from them what topics in University they were prepared for, which ones they struggled with, and what areas were focused on in first year chemistry. I personally found that I was far more prepared for first year chemistry than the majority of other students. More highschool teachers should follow his example by teaching in a manner closer to the University standard, and finding out directly from students how to improve and refine his course.
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    Oct 8 2011: you are miles ahead of most! accepting and adapting to change is key in all aspects of life..the faster we can move on and recover, the better we can transition to greater results
    We need a better grade of education in the US not just babysitters. Encouraging more guest spekars debates and financing this should be a part of every corportae mantra, after all the new ideas will eventually move to science and business and even arts V
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    Oct 7 2011: They could offer college class, college grading scale (7.5), and although I hate to say it; more difficult work.I'm in high school currently and we have a 7.5 grading scale and offer a few college classes...but not enough
  • Oct 6 2011: Training them more with practicals than theory and allowing them to do projects related to the subjects they learn.Assigning them with assignments and more of seminars.Engaging individuals to express their ideas and allowing them to discuss new technologies and trends.
  • Oct 6 2011: Discuss main points of the lesson then ask them to write about something they dream to do that day as they have many new things coming up every day. Express their demands in writing or discussing lead them to think about solutions, and because they are always closed to technology than to book, I prefer motivating them to learn by using the technology inside the class to work either individually or with group.
  • Oct 5 2011: I believe that we need to teach the youth that they are in control of their life. They have choices to make, and we need to guide them toward choices that will improve their individual lives. This takes a combination of parenting and teaching to have this concept become effective. When the youth realize they do have a say in thier life they respond in a fashion of a person that is responsible, not needy. Teaching how to find their passion and why it is important will have them chase down education, rather than just recieve an education. this is a great start towards the youth becoming individuals, not sheep in the learning system.
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    Oct 5 2011: They could talk to Sal Kahn about implementing the best learning technologies ever known to man kind. They should also promote collective innovation. The idea that students need to think and act 100% on their own is ridiculous. These teachers can't even imagine the level of communication their kids are using... Google should be a standard tool accessible for every single quiz and test. If we continue to disable our children from communicating with their peers, they will never truly understand how to collaborate on a real life project. It is time to stop hiding knowledge... and instead embracing it.
  • Oct 5 2011: I would like to suggest to stop teaching and make the students to learn, because in a typical teenager attitude they will not listen to even their parents so how come they will listen to teachers(who will always give boring lectures).Schools have to build up the infrastructure which is used to help their students to learn the things not to study the things and vomit what he/she studied at the examinations, and they have to give space to students to learn the skills(which is used to get his/her basic needs if anything worse happens.)in any of their interested fields.These skills will give that student a bold confidence that if he comes out of the school he can survive in the real world by showing that skill.
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    Oct 5 2011: Wisdom is not education or knowledge itself, but it rather represents the proper functioning of our mind so that it not only knows the place of everything, but it also knows what form all things can take. Wisdom offers a broader perspective than the purely intellectual knowledge and analytical reasoning. It is more a way of perceiving things correctly than being able to define them through words and concepts.
  • Oct 3 2011: Give them "What we should have known"
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    Oct 3 2011: More responsability for teachers!
    At least here in Germany all the older teachers are employed by the state meaning they cannot be fired without a very good reason such as sexual harassment. This leads to many teachers no longer having any incentives to really try hard, to boring lessons in which you learn almost nothing interesting and worst of all to teachers no longer being the role models they should be and to no desire of students of becoming a teacher themselves. Of course there are exceptions from this, I had my share of great teachers as well, but all in all I am pretty disappointed with the German system.
    • Oct 3 2011: Oh wow ya I can see how that can be a major problem in Germany.
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    Oct 3 2011: A more pertinent question is how can we reinvent college so that it has more actual relevance and value for society." I think therefore I am" said Descartes long ago. Paul Simon song echoed our current reality " I can't be convicted .. I earned my degree".
    Any non illusory correspondence between the possession of a college degree and the quality of a graduates life or contribution to it, is entirely of our own artifice. If any other business had such a limited success rate (not only in graduation rates but then in % of those grads that actually benefit from their degrees) it would be unable to continue operation. But since universities write their own rules and apparently define success primarily in how well they collect dues and tuition to build their endowments and influence and secondarily in how well they limit competition for their graduates, they don't have to compete. Like failed faith healers they blame any lack of success on their victims lack of faith or effort. They conveniently graduate the lawyers who then craft the laws that maintain their monopoly. Since no new university can get accredited without approval from the interlocking old alumni network no end run is possible. Exceptional non graduates like Edison or Gates are generally co-opted with honorary degrees.With hind sight It seems likely to me that the emperors new clothes were cut from a commencement gown pattern.