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Why an Effective Problem Solving Curriculum Exceeds Standardized Testing

Parents often wonder if students learn enough problem solving in K-12 to prepare them for higher education.

A Forbes article by Gosia Glinska, a contributor for the Batten Institute University of Virginia Darden School of Business says that they aren’t.

“Entrepreneurs are, essentially, problem solvers, and problem solving can be taught,” according to the article.

“Unfortunately, our schools are doing just the opposite. Instead of empowering students to think critically, collaborate effectively, take risks and learn from mistakes, they teach them how to follow directions and do well on standardized tests.”

The fault does not fall on the educators as they are forced to teach students to succeed on standardized tests rather than being able to gain full control over a more empowering curriculum.

So, Glinska suggests problem-based learning as one of the solutions to the pervasive standardized tests—which many families are opting out of this testing season.

“By the time they show up in my classroom,” said Matt Shields, a physics and engineering teacher at Charlottesville High School, “students have a decade of schooling under their belts, mostly focused on the memorization and repetition of decontextualized facts, and not on the application of knowledge to solve unique problems.”

The big piece of advice here is for teachers to try to think outside the realm of standardized testing and into challenging students to be problem solvers who are able to apply what they learn rather than regurgitating it through tests.

“The emphasis on testing also discourages students from taking risks and learning from mistakes, which is a part of the entrepreneurial process and of life,” says Glinska.

“Where education should instill confidence in one’s ability to apply knowledge to solve problems, schooling based so heavily on testing produces a fear of being wrong,” said Shields according to the Forbes article.

So, once again, standardized testing is challenged by those who truly believe that children need to learn in different ways. A student who simply memorizes information runs the risk of losing it somewhere along the way. What they won’t lose, however, is the experience in which they applied their knowledge to solve a problem.

Read the full story and comment below.

Article by Navindra Persaud, Education World Contributor

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