Because our middle level learners are ready for more independence, age-appropriate challenges, and they crave mastery of skills, we need to teach them differently. Middle level learners need to spend less time memorizing content and more time developing skills. They need to imagine more, choose more, produce more so that they like school more. A skill-centered curriculum, using content as a vehicle for skill development, is the future of middle level education.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Why kids in the middle grades need a skill-centered curriculum

Our schools simply do not do enough to engender a gratifying sense of independence that empowers young people, and tipping the scales towards a more skill-centered curriculum can change that. A curriculum centered around skill-development stands to make young people attach to their academic setting much more vigorously. If on a daily basis, kids are mastering skills and applying them to produce results, they will find the academic aspect of school as engaging or fulfilling as the social, artistic, and athletic aspects typically are. 

Kids love to master skills, because skills allow them to do things own their own. Now, if you work with kids ages 11-15, you know well that little makes them feel better than independence, and skill mastery is a great source of independence. When kids can do things on their own, they feel good about themselves, they feel empowered. A happy and empowered kid is one who will learn effectively and feel attached to his or her environment.

The shortcoming of a content-centered curriculum, as most middle school core academic classes are, is that it bores kids and alienates them from the potential value of subjects they are studying. Kids in this age group are not very interested in information that is not applicable: they want to know things so that they can do things with the information. A skill-centered curriculum uses the content as a medium for teaching the skills. As a result, kids interaction with the information is positive: it always leads to skill utilization and independent production.

So if we limit our content delivery to what facilitates skill development, and then spend our teaching time helpings kid master and apply skills, we will have kids who love being at school.

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