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Break Through the Mold: Assumption Shatterers in Education

Imagine a world where the education system is not just a one-size-fits-all approach but instead adapts to the unique needs and interests of every learner. Picture a system that blurs the lines between school and the real world, where students, families, and communities become active partners in the pursuit of knowledge. This isn’t an unattainable dream; it’s a vision we can bring to life within our existing education systems. All it takes is a shift in our thinking. In this blog post, we’ll explore seven “Assumption Shatterers” that we explored in Measuring Human Return- Understand and Assess What Really Matters for Deeper Learning (McEachen and Kane, 2019) that challenge the status quo in education and pave the way for deeper, more meaningful learning experiences for all students. 

Assumption Shatterer #1: The System is Failing Learners, Not Vice Versa 

It’s easy to blame low-performing students for their lack of success without considering the system’s role in their struggles. We must recognize that a student’s failure often points to the system’s failure to meet their needs. While external factors like poverty and health can affect a student’s performance, educators have a significant opportunity to make a difference by focusing on factors within their control. Deeper learning shifts the focus from assigning blame to collaborating on solutions that benefit everyone. 

Assumption Shatterer #2: 100% Success is Non-Negotiable 

We must believe that every student can and should succeed. Accepting anything less than 100% success implies that we’re okay with a certain percentage of students failing. It’s a mindset shift that challenges us to strive for total success, acknowledging that it’s not about achieving perfection but about ensuring every student’s needs are met. 

Assumption Shatterer #3: Equal Treatment Leads to Inequitable Outcomes 

Every student is unique, with their own identity, knowledge, and interests. Treating all students, the same may not work for any of them, as learning is most profound when it connects with an individual’s interests and needs. Personalizing learning doesn’t mean reinventing the wheel for every student but rather getting to know them and tailoring education accordingly. Nor does it mean writing an individual program for every student- that’s almost impossible. It means tailoring the curriculum to meet who they are and not just teaching “a” curriculum.  

Assumption Shatterer #4: Focusing on the Least-Served Learners Benefits Everyone 

By addressing the needs of struggling learners, we gain insights into how the system needs to change. Learning outcomes are more equitable and meaningful than traditional measures, benefiting all students by transforming the concept of success. 

Assumption Shatterer #5: Systems Can Measure What Matters 

Traditional measurement practices quite simply fail to assess meaningful success. We can create effective measures when we know what to look for and understand assessment practices. A measurement framework can guide us in assessing the outcomes that truly matter, making “authentic assessment” accessible for any school system. 

Assumption Shatterer #6: Students Are Partners in Instruction 

In a deeper learning system, students take on more active roles in their education. This shift doesn’t diminish the teacher’s role but makes it more critical than ever. Teachers have access to understanding their students deeply, co-design assessments, and support students in their learning journeys. Students become co-creators of knowledge, making education more engaging and meaningful. 

Assumption Shatterer #7: Collaboration is Key to System-Wide Change 

Change in education requires collaboration among educators, students, parents, and the community. Parents know their children best and can offer valuable insights into their learning. Community members also have a stake in the success of their children and can contribute to learning partnerships. Education can and should extend beyond the classroom, involving everyone in the learning process. 

While these Assumption Shatterers might challenge some of our existing practices and beliefs, they ultimately serve the best interests of students. Embracing these mindsets can lead to improved outcomes for all learners. Change is undoubtedly challenging, but when we witness the positive effects on students’ lives, we’ll never look back. It’s within our power to put these principles into practice and create a system that prepares students for a lifetime of fulfillment and contribution.