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Education should seek to bring its subjects to the perfection of their moral, intellectual and physical nature, in order that they may be of the greatest possible use to themselves and others – Emma Hart Willard 1787-1870

Throughout my college experience, I was constantly aware that the focus of my classroom experience was all about the content and not about the people who were present. If I decided not to show up, the class would stay the same. On the other hand, if the content didn’t show up (maybe due to a computer malfunction), everything about the class would be different. In contrast, the learning I did outside of the classroom was centered around my interest, driven by my curiosity, and dedicated to my development as the individual. I had expected formal education to support this natural process of human development, but it mostly seemed to place all kinds of barriers in the way of learning that might impact my life.

Formal Education is Not Producing the Intended Results!

  • A study of reading habits by the national endowment for the arts recognized that a huge percentage of students stop reading after graduation, and that reading skills overall have declined to the detriment of the American society and economy. – To Read or Not to Read: A Question of National Consequence
  • At least half of graduates surveyed by the Accenture College Graduate Employment Research consider themselves under-employed and are “looking for more of a “me” experience, where their passions will be acknowledged and their career path customized to their interests.” Do they get trained for this at university?
  • The Cooperative Institutional Research Program (CIRP) at UCLA reported in a 2012 study of American Freshman that 87.9 % of student surveyed reported going to college “to be able to get a better job.”
  • The Chronicle of Higher Education pointed with irony to a study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which reported more than 300,000 waiters and waitresses with college degrees alongside nearly 17 million other ‘educated’ Americans whose jobs do not require a degree.

Obviously, Something Is Not Working!

Formal education is not producing the outcome that students expect and need. IDEO, a non-profit organization dedicated to solving global problems through a Human-Centered design process suggests that part of the problem is a solution that is not designed for the people who need it. This is especially an issue for “non-homogenous” individuals or minorities (Brookfield, 2013). Smith & Ragan (1999) agree, citing examples of teachers who created instruction materials and products that did not resonate with their students. Creativity must be coupled with a human element of empathy in order to produce results that work!

A Proposal

Education systems are not needed for the mastery of content, but for the mastery of the individual who must use it and further its development. The center of the classroom experience must shift from the INFORMation of individuals, to the individuals inFORMATION. The following mission statement of Yale College makes clear the human objectives of education around which its experience should be developed:

The mission of Yale College is to seek exceptionally promising students of all backgrounds from across the nation and around the world and to educate them, through mental discipline and social experience, to develop their intellectual, moral, civic, and creative capacities to the fullest. The aim of this education is the cultivation of citizens with a rich awareness of our heritage to lead and serve in every sphere of human activity. –http://yalecollege.yale.edu/yale-college-mission

A Closer Look at Content-Centered vs Human-Centered Learning

Click here to download the slideshow from this video

Origins of Human-Centered Learning

The proposed shift from content-centered learning to Human-Centered Learning is not a new concept. It is informed and developed by multiple learning theories and and key educational leaders from a diverse range of perspectives (e.g. Maria Montessori, George Siemens, Howard Gardner, Sugata Mitra, Jean Piaget, Lev Vygotsky, Albert Bandura, Sir Ken Robinson, Barry Zimmerman, Stephen Brookfield, Paulo Friere, Benjamin Bloom, and others).

Learn more about the educators and theories that inform the idea of Human-Centered Learning at the Human Centered Learning Blog