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Bruno: Teachers Already Use Lots of Real-World Examples

5748613518_78eb45048d_nLast week, Gallup put out a survey finding that students "who say they 'often' developed 21st century skills -- such as real-world problem-solving and global awareness -- in their last year of school are more likely to self-report higher work quality."

This is the kind of survey that lends itself to misinterpretation. At first blush, for example, you might think that students are reporting higher work quality because their teachers had them do lots of "collaboration" and "knowledge construction".

More likely, however, is that teachers are more likely to employ those "21st century" strategies with students who are already higher-achieving - and who would thus tend to get higher-quality work anyway. 

What really jumped out at me, though, was the finding that fewer than 1/3 of students reported applying what they were learning to "real world problems in your community or in the world".

There's almost certainly less to that result than meets the eye.

I don't have a survey finding to back this up, but I'm still extremely confident that virtually every student in the country applied their learning to real-world problems not just in their last year of school, but in their last month of school. In fact, in their last year of school they might have done so at least once almost every day.

The examples are endless. English teachers have students write persuasive essays about current events, math teachers have students use math to optimize resource allocation, and history teachers ask students to apply the lessons of the past to today's dilemmas.

In the last month of school my 8th grade science students had to apply their knowledge of electricity to evaluate the safety and energy efficiency of their homes. My 7th graders had to use information about sexually transmitted diseases and human body systems to evaluate the safety of their own - and hypothetical - lifestyle decisions.

These aren't exceptions; they're the norm. As far as I can tell there aren't any teachers who don't tie real world problems into their classes. If students are saying otherwise, it's likely because such activities are so common that they're taken for granted or because the term "real world problem" is too vague. - PB (@MrPABruno) (image source)

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