...the crises in education stem from misunderstandings about how humans learn rather than any generalized failures of schools and teachers. The biology of learning is providing some powerful answers that, in turn, raise serious questions about whether our schools are able to prepare children for life in the 21st century. The present arrangements for conventional schooling are a reflection of the assumptions about human nature and learning that emerged to support the needs of the Industrial Revolution
John Abbott & Terry Ryan The Unfinished Revolution (Network Educational Press, 2001)

(For an interesting essay by Abbott and Ryan on what a transformed education system could look like based on the biology of learning, download Education should go with the grain of the brain PDF 956KB)

The crises in education - real or otherwise - will not be addressed by a single curriculum design no matter how cleverly devised and packaged. It is possible however, to focus on parts of the problem, and design a specific response that has a better than even chance of making a difference.

Based on the work of Abbot and Ryan (quoted above) and other education commentators C21 Ideas recognises two major aspects of the present crises in education:

  • inadequate regard for the biology of learning (generally defined as: learning by doing and experiencing with the senses, the emotions, the body and the mind; learning in-context, which is basically the traditional apprenticeship model - hence the useful 'cognitive apprenticeship' model of learning)
  • increasing failure of a 19th century model of schooling to meet the needs of 21st century learners. This mismatch manifests itself in several ways, but for many educators, the most serious problem arises from the segregation of learning into discreet subjects - essentially disconnected from each other, and from the learner's present, and certainly future, environment.

C21 Ideas shows a healthy respect for the biology of learning in that it is underpinned by the principles of the 'cognitive apprenticeship' learning model - modeling, scaffolding, coaching, exploration, articulation, reflection.

Similarly, C21 Ideas has no subject or learning area heritage. While it is possible for individual teachers to bring to the curriculum design their own subject preferences (expanding on the literacy examples for example), the students' experience, is essentially real-world.