Impact-Based Education

Impact-Based Education

It was one of those rare occasions when the very air that we breathe was recognized for what it is—not merely its chemical composition pulled into our bodies by the involuntary expansion of our lungs, but the processes by which we access the oxygen that sustains our lives on a moment to moment basis. Unless we are confronted with poor air quality, physical ailments, unpleasant smells, or breathing instructions from yoga instructors; we don’t often consider the fact that we are breathing, much less the literal vitality of this continuous act. Oftentimes, this is also how school feels. It’s a thing we do, we get that there’s some value there, but we don’t think much more about it, let alone really appreciate fully the value of what we’re doing each moment or each day.

There it was, though, in less than 140 characters:

…okay, and a quoted tweet and a video.

In case you missed the significance: Jacolbe’s portrait inspired another person. He didn’t just learn to see better or draw better. Jacolbe learned to make the world better by drawing.

Just as he breathes, unknowingly sustaining his life on a moment to moment basis; Jacolbe paused and recognized that he had spent a semester building the skills to make an impact in the world. The end game wasn’t hidden. Sometimes it just takes another way for students to recognize what we’ve been telling them all along. For Jacolbe, he just needed to see the kids’ faces to know that he’d done something truly meaningful, that he’d experienced an impact-based education.

Impact-Based Education: A model of education in which students are empowered to make an impact in the world.

Most of the models of education, old and new, that we’ll read about focus on how we deliver content. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking direct instruction, differentiated, project- or problem-based, hands-on, immersive, simulations, or you name your approach to education, and we’re talking about a different packaging for the same gift. Believe me, when it comes to helping our students develop their knowledge, skills, and dispositions, I’m not against any effective means that leaves students’ dignity intact. Where I do object to many approaches to education is that they look only at the What (the content) and the How (means of delivering the content) and then we ask students to just believe that one day they’ll be able to use all, or some, of what we’ve given them. In an impact-based education, teaching and learning isn’t the goal. The goal is “to make an impact in the world.” Teaching and learning is a necessary part of achieving that goal.

We may tend to think about making an impact as something that’s a part of clubs or service or something extracurricular. But, there’s so much more possibility and examples of students making an impact beyond the school by building their capacity to do so right within their classrooms. There are many more teachers who believe in their students’ capacity to make the world a better place right now, and who are empowering them to make it so right now, not at some later imagined date. There’s so much more for us to learn from those whose delivery systems are applied toward a better future.

So stay tuned…


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