How have expectations and definitions of student learning changed over time?

As we begin to define different types of learning and learning outcomes, we also look at the way students have been educated over time. As more emphasis is placed on the importance of education, and the results of standardized tests guide the content of education, we now ask: are the expectations of student outcomes also changing? We look at the way education has been crafted in the United States and the way students have been and are currently educated, from curriculum model changes to the physical structure of the classroom and the makeup of the population in the classroom. Educational laws require children to be educated and prohibit child labor which provides all students access to education but we still ponder: Have we made improvements to education? Have students advanced in their learning? How are we measuring learning? Are we truly measuring learning? Are we holding our students back by consistently assessing them and not allowing for self-correction?

One common way students used to learn was through instruction guided by their older classmates. Students of all ages would occupy one school room. We now have a more homogenous look to classrooms and students span much smaller age groups and instruction is driven by the common core and the standardized tests that measure student progress through common core education. We take a look at some other ways student progress has been and is currently measured.

The following graphics, books and articles provide different perspectives on classroom setup, student assessment, student learning expectations and outcomes over time.

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Curated by Anthony Dana, Amberle Reyes and AnnMargaret Shea

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How do you define 21st C Learning?

Elizabeth Rich,  October 2010

The term “21st-century skills” is generally used to refer to certain core competencies such as collaboration, digital literacy, critical thinking, and problem-solving that advocates believe schools need to teach to help students thrive in today’s world. In a broader sense, however, the idea of what learning in the 21st century should look like is open to interpretation—and controversy.


1950’s Classroom Expectations

Linda L Labin, June 2015

School Requirements in the 1950s In perusing some old grade cards from the 1950s and 1960s, I was struck by the difference in attitudes and expectations between now and then. One cannot help but comment upon our current need for a similar set of responsibilities clarified for students and parents in place of the laid-back, lackadaisical approach of the soft-headed liberals who don’t want to teach students right from wrong from fear that some little sissy might get his feelings hurt.


11 Ways School was different in the 1800’s

Erin McCarthy, Jan 7 2016

For many, education ended after just eighth grade; in order to graduate, students would have to pass a final exam. You can see a sample of a typical 8th grade exam in Nebraska circa 1895 in this PDF. It includes questions like “Name the parts of speech and define those that have no modifications,” “A wagon box is 2 ft. deep, 10 feet long, and 3 ft. wide. How many bushels of wheat will it hold?,” and “What are elementary sounds? How classified?”


Measuring Student Learning

Cornell  University Center for Teaching Excellence, April 14, 2016

Assessment is the systematic collection of information about student learning, using the time, knowledge, expertise, and resources available, in order to inform decisions that affect student learning.


Schomberg Center For Research In Black Culture, Photographs And Prints Division

NYPL, 1939

Interior of school on Mileston Plantation; School begins very late in the year and attendance is poor until December because the children pick cotton, Mileston, Mississippi Delta, Mississippi, November, 1939.


Changing Education paradigm

RSA Animate, October 2010

Ken Robinson, a world renowned education expert and recipient of the RSA Benjamin Franklin Award, discusses the issues in our educational system in effectively engaging and preparing modern day students for the workforce. He offers ideas on how we can adapt our system to meet the needs of the 21st century learner.


History of Learning Standards in New York State

New York State Education Department, October 2010

Begin in 1995, the state of New York started developing learning standards in hopes of improving students learning, supporting schools, and holding schools and teachers accountable. In the past 21 years, standards have grown and developed and are now at the forefront of our educational system. They define what and how our students should learn while creating much tension between students, parents, teachers and administrators.


One comment

  1. Soft skills have replaced hard skills! Critical thinking has replaced memorization!