Educational psychologist Benjamin Bloom did a controlled study and found out that the average student tutored one-to-one using the mastery learning technique would perform two standard deviations better (at the 98th percentile level) than the average student receiving instruction via conventional methods. That is just incredible. It means that with the right teaching methods the average student could perform at an extremely high level. Genetics be damned! I know hiring an individual tutor for each student won’t scale but if we could find the right teaching method, maybe every student could perform two standard deviations better. Maybe with further improvement, they could perform even better. What if the new normal became what is considered a genius level of knowledge acquisition currently?
What that would mean for the economy and society at large would be incredible. The true human potential of each individual could be unlocked. It is hard to completely fathom how society would be different but I think it would be better in a lot of ways. The economy would thrive. More intelligent decisions would be made on political and societal issues. More great things would be created.
We need to find better methods of teaching that will replicate the benefits of tutoring at much lower costs. Technology is likely part of the solution but there is still the need for teacher involvement, especially great teacher involvement. As a technology-inclined autodidact, I am tempted to view the likes of Khan Academy and other self-paced, individualized learning tools as the holy grail. They alone are not. They need to be combined with the human element to reach their full potential. Certain types of instruction, such as project based learning, typically require a hands on teacher or mentor. Also, teachers do more than just teach. They motivate, coach, listen and guide their students. Or at least that is what they do at their very best.
On top of better tools and methodologies, we need a psychological shift. Education needs to be valued very highly. Some research has shown that parental attitudes towards education is one of the most impactful variables on a student’s success…sorry, I can’t find the link right now. Determination needs to be taught to whatever extent it can be taught. If students and their parents valued education and had the right values system, educational outcomes would be much higher.
Combine that with better teaching methodologies and techniques and the outcome would be truly amazing.
I am no expert on this subject, but like many, education is a topic that I deeply care about. Growing up, I received a lot of one-on-one tutoring from my older brother, Peter. While I was still in preschool, he taught me what he was learning in his 5th grade math class. This helped boost me ahead in math and ignite my love of learning. I am also thankful that I went to good public schools, had some great teachers along the way and parents that value education. My father even owned two used and out of print bookstores. I had a limited but impactful exposure to self-paced, computer-based learning. Overall, my primary and secondary school experiences were positive. Though, I imagine how my life would be different if I went to bad public schools and my family wasn’t as supportive. My education would have been completely different.
Without those factors, I don’t know if I would have excelled in school and acquired a love for learning. Society ought to do as much as possible to help each student get as good of an education as possible and instill a love of learning. Watch this space!