I am a huge fan of the Arizona’s College and Career Ready Standards because they are a start in the right direction. Today’s students will face new problems that our species has never had to solve. We’ve never had to feed seven billion people and we’ve never had to adapt to global climate change. Requiring students to memorize facts will not help us solve these new problems. Instead, students need to learn how to think. They need to learn how to research, think about things in a different way, cite their resources, and defend their ideas, which is precisely what these new standards require.
Next week, I will finish my 7th year as a science teacher. Prior to teaching, I worked in the financial industry where I solved problems, analyzed data, and defended my opinions and ideas. One of my best accomplishments was inventing the process our bank used to allow customers to apply for a credit card at a store, receive immediate credit feedback, and then charge their purchase immediately. At the time, I was told this was science fiction but it was a simple change to a complicated computer system that ultimately allowed my employer to be one of the first banks to offer their customers instant credit at the store.
There was no fact that I memorized in high school or college that helped me invent the instant credit process. Instead, it was the teaching of my 12th grade physics teacher. He taught us the laws of physics, but then required that we apply the laws to unorthodox situations, requiring us to think about the laws in different ways. I remember being very frustrated with my teacher because he destroyed my straight A’s that year. But now, as an adult and an accomplished business woman and teacher, I realize that he was the first teacher I had that truly required me to think and not memorize. Instead of being frustrated with him today, I am incredibly grateful because he gave me a tool that I use every day: the tool of thought.
Arizona’s College and Career Ready Standards are a great beginning because they are helping redefine teaching so that we require less memorizing and more thinking. The new standards provide more structure for my science class, which my science students refer to as a ‘thinking class’. I have always required my students to ask questions, defend their answers, think critically, and analyze data, which is exactly what these new standards require.
To learn more about Arizona’s College & Career Ready Standards, visit ArizonaAimsHigher.org.
Tara Dale is a 7th grade science teacher at Akimel A-al Middle School and a 2014 AEF Teacher of the Year Ambassador for Excellence.