Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Three R's Replaced by the Five C's

Last year there was a series of articles in the American School and University magazine exploring if the three R’s have been replaced by the five C’s.  The five C’s they proposed are Competence, Communication, Collaboration, Creativity, and Choice.  Because the magazine is directed toward facilities and business decisions, the articles concentrated on how the built environment affects the five C’s but the acknowledgement of the shift in education is valid.

Competence:  Increasingly we hear more about competence based education.  Western Governor’s University, which is now operating in our state, advertises that they are about competence not just credit.  Some programs are offering badges to signify the attainment of competence.  SACS has even changed some of the accreditation principals to accommodate programs that emphasize competence.  We normally associate the term with career programs and mastery of skills.  But why can’t we apply it to what we usually think of as the liberal arts.  Is it possible to say that someone is competent to solve a quadratic equation?  Could a student be competent to write a research paper?  If a student can explain the factors leading up to the Civil War, is that a competence.  I would submit that all of our learning objectives whether associated with a career program or with general education should be demonstrations of competence.  Of course VP McGuire would want me to add that it doesn’t demonstrate anything till we record them and assess them and use the results of assessment to refine them.

Communication:  No man is an island and no one can exist without communication with others.  It is an essential part of life.  I’m reminded of Dr. Ruby Payne’s lesson to us about the different language registers.  Our task as educators is to move students from the casual register to the consultative and formal registers.  OMG and LOL are not acceptable in business communication.  We must continue to stress the competencies that are part of our written and oral communication courses and to be sure that there are communication components in all our courses.

Collaboration:  We consistently hear from employers that our graduates need to be able to work in teams.  Traditional education tends to emphasize solo efforts but we must transform to value group-thinking and interaction.  Group projects provide an opportunity for student to learn how to collaborate with others.  Also we know that research demonstrates that student cohort groups are more successful.  Assignments that promote collaboration also foster cohort groups that support one another.

Creativity:  A few years ago, Sir Ken Robinson was a key-note speaker at the SACS COC annual meeting.  He is the author of several books on creativity including Out of Our Minds.  He proposes that modern education is squeezing creativity out of our children.  Sir Ken offers that to be creative, you must be willing to be wrong.  His hypothesis is that the modern educational system stymies creativity by making students fear a mistake. Our challenge is to not restrict opportunities for creativity to just the arts, but to find opportunities for students to be creative in all disciplines.

Choice:  Finally, we must remember that students have many choices for their education.  The days when we were the only game in town are long gone.  And so we must be responsive to the changing climate.  Students are expecting more technology and more mobile devices to be part of their educational experience and so we must remain current in our pedagogy and our interactions with students.

-Dr. Jerry Faulkner

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