Monday, January 23, 2006

College Knowledge

I'm reading another book - College Knowledge: What It Really Takes for Students to Succeed and What We Can Do to Get Them Ready. From the bookjacket:

The book is based on an extensive three-year project sponsored by the Association of American Universities in partnership with The Pew Charitable Trusts. This landmark research identified what it takes to succeed in entry-level university courses. Based on the project's findings - and interviews with students, faculty and staff - this groundbreaking book delineates the cognitive skills and subject area knowledge that college-bound students need to master in order to succeed in today's colleges and universities.

I can already tell that I'm going to share some excerpts with you through the blog. Here's the first one:

Even when individual teachers do a good job covering content or developing skills for college success, rarely does the high school's instructional program over four years provide an intellectually coherent experience that cultivates the habits of mind that may be even more important than specific content knowledge. Without a well-designed academic program and curriculum that progresses from ninth through twelfth grade, both in the content covered and the intellectual skills developed, relatively few students will integrate what they learn in high school - find the whole to be greater than the sum of the parts. Many will enter college with pockets of knowledge and skill and then experience difficulty with a curriculum that assumes they already know certain things and can undertake complex cognitive tasks. (p. 7 & 8)

This immediately made me think of our discussion in December. I asked how can we tell whether we are being successful as a school and that led to a brief discussion about goals of the entire school. While I think we do an okay job within departments of defining what we want to accomplish in courses and course sequences, I don't think we do as good of job as we could as an entire school. I'm not sure we have an overall "well-designed academic program and curriculum that progresses from ninth through twelfth grade" that provides an "intellectually coherent experience" and that students will end up with a "whole that is greater than the sum of the parts." I'm not sure we develop the "habits of mind" that will help our students be successful not only in college, but in life. If you agree, how can we achieve that? If you disagree, tell me why.

This book is available in the AHS Library (Ron just finished reading it) or the Douglas County Public Library (as soon as I'm done with it).

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