Putting it altogether

When we talk about the “HF School of Economics” and Econline, what we’re really getting at is taking an approach to education that’s a combination of modern pedagogies and practices combined with many of the basic concepts that we teach and learn through economics. Students are individuals, yet the current structure of education is a relic of the industrial era and full of industrial era goals and assumptions: First, it assumes that the “inputs” with which we work are uniform, like assembly line parts, and therefore a single, standard process will produce a uniform result. Second, goals of the school system during it’s expansion was precisely to standardize a diverse population. English language instruction, indoctrination of various values, preparation for work in factories were some of the main goals of the system. While not entirely discounting the need or value of such goals in the past, it certainly seems that social, economic, academic, and technological changes have occurred that render the structure of education as being massive brick and mortar learning factories is outdated.

Educators value that students are unique when they arrive in our classes and that individual differences, progress, and so on are not only permissible, but that individuality is a core part of the human experience.

Teaching and learning has always been, and will always be, instinctive. Humans learn from birth and explicitly teach other people things from a very young age. The art in being an educator in a school is managing the needs of 20-30 individuals at a time, and often in an environment that’s under all kinds of political, economic, and other pressures. The factory model classroom pits the individual teacher in less than ideal circumstances. Indeed, class size and the need to produce defensible report card grades, while necessary features of the current structure of the education system, are significant disruptions to teaching and learning.

Think of the things that occur naturally when teaching 1-1: wait time, checking for understanding, progressive levels of difficulty, and so on. Think of how the bulk of human learning (learning, not formal education) occurred before public schools…meaning all of human history with the exception of the last hundred years or so: individually or in very small groups, alongside parents/family, they learned the relevant skills needed for survival in their cultures. As individual classroom teachers, since it’s unlikely the system will significantly change in the near future, we need to adapt modern methods that allow us to individualize or customize education on a large scale. In effect, the goal is move from Henry Ford education to Pandora Education.

For the individual teacher, there are things they can do to mitigate the effects of factory model education. Much like we recommend breaking down global course goals to component parts, we take the concept of mass customizing education and break it down to levers that we, as individuals can employ in our classrooms and promulgate in our schools: Understanding by Design, Standards-Based Assessment, Differentiated Instruction, Blended Learning, Educational Technology, and Rational-Emotional Behavior Therapy (as a foundation for building persistence, frustration tolerance, and avoiding procrastination). Working to employ these pedagogies will free up more of the instructor’s time to work with students as well as allowing that work to be more authentic and focused on the highest use of student-teacher time.
Each of these pedagogies has their own adherents and opponents. There are many versions of each, and some are fairly specific or rigid in their advice. We are not subscribers to any particular brand or implementation of these, but rather recognize that they fundamentally honor the dignity and individuality of our students and allow us to provide a more customized experience. When aspects of these can further our cause of educating students, we use them. On the other hand, we haven’t implemented any particular system or author’s vision…other than our own, which is constantly evolving.

We recommend teachers look for ways to make pragmatic shifts and changes. Don’t feel the need to convert your whole course immediately...or at all for that matter. Look for things that you think can be successful and try them out. As you build your comfort level, introduce more. We are always interested in your feedback, so any time we can be of assistance, please let us know.