Tag Archives: K-12

Learning from Land-Grant Colleges: Starting a New Education Agenda

On July 2, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Morrill Act that resulted in many colleges and universities now designated across America as land-grant institutions. Each State and major territory has at least one land-grant institution that all total about 110 American college and universities (See listing). Today marks the 150-year anniversary of this original legislation, which is another opportunity to take a fresh look at their purpose and intention.

Although I have written extensively about land-grants (for example, see posting On the Commons), perhaps the most important point is their potential for creating an improved national agenda and educational policy. Among many of the topics that require reconsideration, making clear distinctions within education are essential.

The reason is that most national discussions about education lies within the K-12 perspective, that is elementary and secondary education. Other levels of education such as higher, adult, continuing, and vocational are lumped into postsecondary and tertiary levels layered with divisions.

Making clearer distinctions could inform society about the kinds of education that is needed for current times, instead of using terms haphazardly without evidence whether improvement have occurred or missions have been met.

What makes land-grant institutions so promising is not their location in towns and cities, but that there were originally established to introduce a “new education” for the needs of society. In the nineteenth century, farming and agriculture were needed, but in the 21st century, fields in science, technology, and engineering have required more attention. This shift in priority also requires a new engagement to education that outlines its purpose and outcomes. Priorities such as STEM is not just for K-12 education, but also for the broader education and learning of society at all levels. Changes across all educational institutions, including land-grants, should lead in this new agenda.


What is Higher Education? A Degree or Something Else

In public discourse, “higher education” is a term that differs from traditional schooling such as elementary, secondary, K-12 education. In America, higher education is often believed to be above and beyond traditional schooling into the academic domain of colleges and universities. Similar terms such as adult & continuing education, vocational training, and lifelong learning are often mentioned among educators, but most people don’t bother to define their differences. In the UK, other terms such as tertiary, permanent, further, and recurrent education add to its complexity.

The trouble in these discussions has less to do with the multiple terms of higher education, and more with the public sentiment. In other words, the way that multiple societies view higher education reveal some deep-seated opinions about the purposes of education and learning.  Opinions bounded by distinctions between required schooling versus optional education.

This leads to the question of whether the sole purpose of higher education is to acquire a college degree? A degree supposedly considered not required nor essential, but only an advancement or enhancement to a high-school diploma and required equivalents.  Also this degree is a form of credential that not only gets you a job, but also provides more opportunities to better careers.

However, current times challenge this typical mindset.  Examples show that a degree does not always transfer to getting a job, and additional credentials are no longer optional, but are seen as paramount to maintaining a career.

Lagging behind the times is the misrepresentation of the term higher education.  Given current circumstances, higher education is an outdated word alluding to a time when more education was an option of leisure. “Higher” still suggests a “lower,” just as “required schooling” implies “optional learning,” which colleges and universities used to originally represent.

In the next phase of this public discourse, education is no longer higher and learning is no longer optional.  Such a discussion invites a new mindset willing to remove linkages of trading credentials for better employment.  Instead, there is an acceptance that education and learning is a lifelong public pursuit where talents are discovered, ideas are supported, and vocations are created.

State of Continuing Education 2012

Presenting the ‘State of Continuing Education’ comes with at least two outdated and conflicting terms. Some changes have occurred, but many have not. We have been hopeful and disappointed, gone through set-backs and have led the way.

We see Education has taken many forms and have been used for different purposes. The challenge going forward will involve defining the education you need among multiple options. Some are costly, many are cheaper, a few are unnecessary, but all of them will teach.

Learning has also come into fashion, which makes it harder to determine its real impact. The shift has turned away from learning individually to learning as a group, with a community, or in a society.

It appears that problems will define what we decide to learn, instead of also curiosity. Although both are needed, the expectations for education and learning to provide solutions and credentials on a timeline, within a budget, for a job and trying to keep one, are trending increasingly higher.

What is getting better and expanding is that education is not just k-12, but throughout a lifetime.  What will be interesting to see is whether adults will capture all of their grade-school experiences, good and bad, and return back to these schools and improve them: Wouldn’t that be continuing education?

How Adult Learning Can Change K-12 Education

Adult Learning & Continuing Education is an emerging field that still has a long way to go in defining its discipline and securing its place in society. Yet there are significant points and challenges that must be understood. 

A common challenge has been distinguishing itself from traditional elementary and secondary schooling, always known as kindergarten through highschool (K-12).

An important point is that although college education is included in the field, Adult Learning & Continuing Education focuses more on post-college instruction, continuing-professional education, and learning for multiple situations.

Overall, the distinctive quality of the field is both common and unique. Common like any other academic discipline such as law, medicine, and even K-12 education. But unique in looking from two perspectives: the perspective of expert and of experience.

For example, those who study law, do not often learn how to be a client; medical doctors study medicine, but not enough time concentrates on learning how to be a patient.  K-12 educators learn how to teach programs, but not always about what it means to be a student.  Perhaps that’s why many believe that lawyers are the worst clients, doctors are terrible patients, and it’s harder to teach a teacher.

But Adult Learning & Continuing Education is a discipline that must learn its practice through sharing its problems, using their experiences as a resource for answers.  In this way, these adults become experts in discovering what kinds of learning works immediately and for what purpose, since results are coming from personal experiences.

So why is this important? Because this field has something to offer, especially to our children.  It gives a second chance to reexamine how we learned as kids: To discover what worked; what didn’t; when we learned best; what kind of study habits were productive; or even whether we had study habits at all. 

If society could see more of this value, then this field could be the research & development for education. K-12, for example, could benefit from findings that transform classes, programs and instruction, constructing more productive approaches for future education. 

In this effort, the fundamentals of education would be explored where current K-12 teachers would be able to advance their lesson plans into subjects and technologies, where we as kids never learned or experienced.