Education Opinion

The Best Means to BECOMING is Real-World Accomplishment

By Marc Prensky — October 16, 2014 2 min read

In my last posts I presented the idea that the GOAL OF EDUCATION is not “learning,” but BECOMING. The real goal is for all our kids to become good, capable and world-improving people.

The “learning” which our schools focus so hard to achieve is really only a means, one that, while necessary, is not sufficient for achieving this goal. The far surer route to reaching the goal of “becoming” is real-world accomplishment — the kind that comes not just though “doing,” but through doing real-world (and not made-up) projects. This is what our kids really need to become the people they want (and we want them) to be.

With the tools and networks now at their disposal, today’s kids can accomplish enormous amounts — including much that used to be the purview only of adults. For example, I recently heard of a district that needed to prepare an emergency flood plan. In the past they had hired consultants to do it, but this year they “hired” their own 6th graders — who did a fine job.

Individual examples of kids doing great jobs at real-world tasks abound. But today this is not the norm for schools or for education — at best real-world accomplishment is a “capstone” or “service” project in an otherwise “learn-before-you do” education.

Rather than making our kids put so much effort into learning the excruciating details of math, science, language and social studies in order to pass standardized tests, we ought to be designing “Accomplishment-Based Education” whereby we give our kids the means to become the people they want to be (and we want them to be) through accomplishing needed, real-world tasks. Such “Accomplishment-Based Education” would quickly replace the current fad of “Problem-Based Learning,” which consists almost entirely of fake, made-up problems designed to “cover” certain standards.

A particularly great benefit of our creating Accomplishment-Based Education is that our kids would leave school with a resume of real-world accomplishments to their credit, and not just a transcript of grades. In addition, they will have “become,” through their accomplishments, Effective Thinkers, Effective Doers, Effective Communicators and Effective Accomplishers.

Although today pieces of this exist in various venues, NOWHERE today does anyone do this as well as it could be done — mostly because the world remains overly focused on the outmoded core of math, language, science and social studies (my acronym for this — one that kids love — is “The MESS”). Remember; while it is certainly true that SOME kids need SOME of the MESS, what ALL kids need is to become effective thinkers, doers, relaters and accomplishers.

So we need to move away, at the top level of our curriculum, from teaching all kids the math, language, science and social studies that only some of them need, and move towards an education based on a “New Core” of important skills that ALL students need: i.e. the necessary components of Effective Thinking, Effective Action, Effective Relationships and Effective Accomplishment. And the place where those skills can be best learned and honed is through real-world projects and accomplishments.

As always, your comments are welcome.


The opinions expressed in Prensky’s Provocative Ed-Tech Thinking are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.