Pat Bassett

Bassett talks shifts in education

On Monday, Nov. 9, educational consultant Pat Bassett presented Schools of the Future – Big Shifts to more than 150 educators and parents from Hampton Roads. His presentation, which was hosted by Norfolk Collegiate, delved into his perspectives on the major educational trends and how schools should ready themselves to take advantage in the future. 

Bassett, who has more than 45 years of experience in private education, including former executive director of the National Association of Independent Schools, a teacher, head of school and association president, spent three days at Collegiate helping to guide us through our strategic planning process. His presentation kicked-off his time at Collegiate. 

“Traditional, classical education worked well for 600 years,” said Bassett. “But the other choice is progressive education. It’s student-centered, project-based and experiential learning. Every teacher and every school has a choice to make as we look forward to the future.” 

Bassett’s discussion included shifting the educational perception from: 

  • Knowing to doing;
  • Teacher-centered to student-centered;
  • From the individual to team;
  • From consumption of information to construction of meaning;
  • From single sourcing to crowd sourcing;
  • From showing high-value demonstrations versus high-stakes testing.

Bassett captivated the audience as he discussed the shifts in education. “For 600 years, we’ve been consumers of information. Now, we can be producers of information and history,” he said.

Bassett focused his presentation on the access of information that 21st century students have and how educational institutions that have embraced the shifts and have created a more engaging learning experience for students.

“If you have access to everything and anything, and if you’re an engaged student, you’re fact checking your professor. They (students) should be engaged and participating,” he said.

One way this is happening is by placing the students at the center of the lessons and making it less teacher-centered. For example, eight-year-old twins invented wedgie-proof underwear after being tasked in class with finding a solution to a problem that someone their age would encounter.

It was long noted that school was where creativity went to die, and that it normally happens in grade four with the introduction of test, projects, etc. However, the shifts to student-based and engaged learning is changing the tables.

With parents and the world saying that they want their children to be creative, to collaborate, to communicate and to learn character development, and to be able to think critically, the more schools can shift their focus and create an environment in which students can engage in their lessons and be challenged to think outside of the box, the better they are positioning their students to exceed in the world beyond school.

One example is Katy Waldman’s analysis of Grant Woods’ Victorian Survival. Here, the student takes on the voice of Wood’s rigid Aunt Tilly.

This shift from a consumption of information to construction of meaning is one way in which schools are excelling at creating students who can look past the obvious and construct meaning. In addition, more colleges and workplaces are hiring on digital portfolio versus transcripts alone. This piece is an excellent example of how Waldman is able to think critically and construct meaning in a digital portfolio that would be striking to any college admissions associate or human relations professional.

He introduced the concept of disruptive thinking, which is when students engage in the lesson by using outside sources to add to the lesson. For example, a student taking to the internet to add to a lesson or challenge the teacher can actually be more beneficial for the student.

“Kids can learn a ton in one day with disruptive thinking,” said Bassett. The key is to create an environment that balances knowing versus doing and introducing blended learning into the classroom where high tech meets high touch.

“Adding expeditionary learning allows the students to take ownership of information,” said Basset, and “they engage.”

“This school (Norfolk Collegiate) is well on its way,” said Bassett. “The question is where do we want to be?”

As he ended his presentation, he challenged teachers and parents to the following:

“Your homework for our teachers is to pick one piece about what we need to do. Pick one of the “C’s” that we need to do,” said Bassett. “To our parents, when your child comes home with a project that was different that what you did as a child, support the school and the teachers.”


Strategic planning

Bassett concluded his time at Collegiate by meeting with focus groups comprised of parents, alumni, faculty, staff and students, toured our facilities and visited classes in all three divisions. He also worked with the administration and reviewed the results of the surveys that our constituencies completed last month. That information was analyzed and sent back to our community to hone in on the top initiatives to shape the final version of the strategic plan. 

“The ability to evolve is what makes independent schools unique. We must be poised to have those conversations,” said Headmaster Scott Kennedy. “And it’s important that we be the school to lead those discussions.”