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High School Outcomes

The push for standards and metrics encourage High Schools to focus on delivery of content, to fulfill tests and other assessments. I propose an incremental change to the assessment of school so that it shall focus on development of the meta-cognitive processes that lead to personal and financial success in students, rather than deliver content.

First, I do have two pieces of content that I think schools should add to the curriculum, again for the benefit of the students, with the aim that the majority of students will soon find themselves in a marriage, supporting kids, and carrying a mortgage after graduation.

  1. Knowledge of personal finance that includes budgeting, responsible use of credit, the dramatic power of compound interest, and the value of early investment in retirement accounts (401K, IRA).
  2. Knowledge of child psychology, parenting, and interpersonal behavior that makes one a supportive partner.

Given that last item as a Key Result for the school itself, I propose the school adopt an entirely different structure that models the behavior it wishes the students to adopt.

We begin with the simple observation that curiosity motivates learning. So we arrange the school to foster curiosity by removing the neat rows of desks and boring hours of lecture that don’t interest students, for the traditional approach wastes precious hours of youth. Instead, students shall learn by doing.

A student starts by picking 3 solid skills that they wish to build, with the aim that development of these skills enhance employability. A triad of skills builds resilience, provides an interesting interplay between interests, and encourages topical breadth.

Next the school provides an environment, with instructors offering advice, guidance, and curated experience that grows competency in the chosen skills by addressing 3 pillars of meta-cognition.

Students graduate by executing a self-directed project in each of the three areas. Prior to the capstone exercise, they work under the guidance of instructors who assist them through each of meta-congnitive pillars.

1. Knowledge Acquisition

Using the chosen skills as content generators, the school has the student practice various techniques of acquiring knowledge, so that the student can figure out which work for them as a learner. These techniques work across subject areas and remain generally applicable for cognitive employment. By questioning the material, they learn to deconstruct, analyze, and recombine the material within a skill’s domain.

Key Results

  • Spaced Repetition
  • The Feynman Learning Technique
  • Cornell Method of Taking Notes
  • Building a Knowledge Graph, such as Zettelkasten
  • Organization, such as Getting Things Done
  • Generation of Questions for a Field of Study
  • Discovering the Unsolved Problems of a Field
  • Bullshit Detection
  • How to Problem Solve

2. Psychology of Self

Through exercises of reflection, the school encourages students to reflect on their feelings and desires as they learn the material. They learn habits of personal psychology by which they can keep themselves motivated. As students acquire knowledge of themselves they engage in self-directed learning.

Key Results

  • Reflection, such as Journalling
  • Measurement of Learning Progress/Effectiveness
  • Formation of Habits
  • Practice with Deep Work
  • Value of Persistence and Flexibility
  • Big 5 Model of Personality
  • Growth Mindset
  • Cognitive Behavioral Techniques for Emotional Regulation
  • Feuerstein Instrumental Enrichment

3. Psychology of Team

No field of study or business occurs in isolation. So students practice working on a team, building the skills for inter-personal relations, support, and leadership.

Key Results

  • What Makes Feedback Useful
  • Giving & Taking Constructive Feedback
  • Dealing with Disagreement, Reaching Consensus
  • Team Dynamics, such as Forming, Norming, Performing, Storming
  • Asking Questions

4. Bonus: Civics

The ambition curriculum produces business tycoons. The school supports entrepreneurial students with some additional content.

Key Knowledge

  • The Dictator’s Handbook, Keys to Power
  • The Federal Reserve, Economics
  • How to Be a Power Connector
  • Less Wrong sequences in Cognitive Bias and Bayesian Reasoning

2 comments to High School Outcomes

  • If we were to reduce the entire effort into one measurable outcome: pattern recognition.

    Patterns occur in may different areas:
    – math
    – logic, critical thinking
    – cognitive biases
    – interpersonal + team dynamics

    And the ability to recognize them is easily measured:
    – present different scenarios, ask for the name
    – given a name, construct a scenario (bonus: in different domains)
    – de-novo, name as many patterns as possible

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