A Revised Lesson Plan for Student Success

There’s growing concern among students, parents, educators, administrators, governments and employers: The return on investment in education needs bolstering, and that requires an updated perspective, new strategies and new metrics for student success.

For too long, students have been expected to master a defined body of information, mostly through memorization and recall. Student success has long meant coming up with correct answers on tests, getting passing grades, advancing to the next level of coursework and ultimately graduating on time.

But now, education thought leaders are adopting a different perspective on the issue of student success. Their efforts are fueled by concerns that new discoveries from cognitive and behavioral science aren’t being applied, and technology isn’t being adequately blended into teaching and learning. They’re troubled by student disengagement, which, according to Gallup, increases as students advance from grade to grade. They have growing concerns about the potential irrelevance of required subjects that only a small fraction of people now use in daily life and the amount of focus put on memorizing information that can be easily found online.

What’s more, in higher education, especially in the United States, there’s a dropout crisis. While more students are enrolling, more than 40 percent of those who begin at American four-year colleges don’t earn a degree in six years, and the dropout rate is even higher among community-college students, according to a report in The Chronicle of Higher Education. In other countries, dropout rates measure lower, but are still high enough to be concerning according to data compiled by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Meanwhile, too many graduates are having trouble finding a job in their chosen fields, and studies show mounting clamor from employers who say that graduates lack the high-value skills needed in their organizations: critical thinking, collaboration, communication and creativity, as well as adaptability, empathy, leadership abilities and cultural sensitivity.

All of this is leading to awareness of the need for disruptive innovation in education. Old norms are giving way to a deeper, broader and more individualized perspective on what student success is and how to achieve it.

This is an excerpt of a story included in a new publication “rethinking success. sparking creativity.” by Steelcase Education. Start here to get the full story.

Get the Full Booklet

This new booklet published by Steelcase Education explores two key issues in education. The first is about stepping back, rethinking old norms and bringing disruptive innovation to learning spaces to help students succeed. The second article focuses on the creative process: helping students find new ways to think, make and ultimately share their ideas.

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Leave a Comment

  • Author


    I would say that given the activities of late on college and university campuses, that more than anything else, students are going to require post graduate courses in the realities of the business world. I am not sure that they realize that the only safe zones will be on campuses, that demonstrations are not really big in the business world and most organizations do not have ethnically related groups within the organization. I think they are learning more about their needs, their “rights” and protesting than they are core capabilities. From Misou to Tufts to UC the degrees are becoming worthless.

    • Author


      I think it is past time for HS and college students to put on their Big Boy pants and stop acting like spoiled elementary or middle schoolers. What is happening is beyond ridiculous. I was on my own at 17, paying rent, buying my clothes, and so on. Put myself through college later. Schools and colleges have been watered down since the 70’s. If we want to compete with the higher functioning countries, we must get back to having standards and discipline.

  • Author


    I am a high school Career and Technical Education instructor. As a chef instructor, I teach my students the skills needed to prepare them for entry employment in the food service industry. Since I work in Nevada, many of my students have gone on to work at various casino restaurants. My colleagues teach other industry related skills and their students learn from electricians, plumbers, carpenters, nurse aides, etc. All of our students graduate with vocational skills that may be immediately put to use by employers.

    Although it used to be that a 4 year college degree was the traditional path to find a successful career, all too many college graduates are finding themselves burdened with student loans that they can’t pay off because they can’t find a decent paying job. While some four year degrees are specialized like education, engineering, and nursing … how does a liberal arts degree in philosophy lead to a decent job?

    Related to the comment made by diligas, some of our universities have gone overboard with political correctness to the point where the use of gender pronouns has been replaced with gender neutral designations. Some schools have reintroduced racially segregated housing to promote “safe zones” for minorities. I think this is all ridiculous and instead of preparing young men and women for the realities of employment, they are coddling their students and creating an unrealistic liberal culture that has no reflection in the reality of our cultural mainstream.

  • Author


    “While more students are enrolling, more than 40 percent of those who begin at American four-year colleges don’t earn a degree in six years, and the dropout rate is even higher among community-college students, according to a report in The Chronicle of Higher Education.”

    There is a direct link between the increased enrollment and the increase in drop-outs. I now work in Catholic Education but as a 10 year public high school teacher the push for “secondary education” (which only pushed “college or university” and no technical training) is absolutely ridiculous. College is NOT for everyone, and there is also no shame in that.

    “…potential irrelevance of required subjects that only a small fraction of people now use in daily life and the amount of focus put on memorizing information that can be easily found online.”

    It’s a downright shame if people are not utilizing the knowledge they gained in “required subjects” in their daily lives. Last I checked in history, when people have not received well-rounded educations and only gave them the education needed for a specific job or career, the culture suffered greatly. Also, the reliability of “information that can easily be found online” is questionable, at best. Try as I might as a social studies teacher to get students to think for themselves or verify sources, they are still adolescence and they believe only what they want to believe. They understand “credibility” and “bias” as abstract ideas, but cannot connect those concepts to what is directly in front of their face.

    This article is very flawed and full of buzz words to make it sound more important than it is.

    • Author

      Rebecca C.


      Thank you for your comment. It’s true student success is often narrowly defined today as attending a four year college. That narrow view doesn’t take into account a student’s own goals, strengths, and interests. And in fact, some of the technical jobs that are hands on AND require critical thinking may be safer than some knowledge work jobs from the threat of automation. But regardless of whether a student wishes to pursue a four year college or a technical degree, all students should build knowledge, acquire skills, and work on personal development to reach their own definition of success.

      The ubiquity of information has certainly created an abundance of questionable sources. One of the most valuable skills for the 21st century is informational literacy, which empowers students to know when information is needed, where to find it, how to evaluate it, and how to apply it. When they leave school, they will be expected to find the answers to questions they encounter using all resources available to them.

      Exposing students to a variety of subjects can introduce new passions and help them understand the world more broadly. Unfortunately, a lot of what we teach students is forgotten shortly after the class ends. Tony Wagner, in his book Most Likely to Succeed, tells the story of an elite school that asked their students to retake their final exam when they returned to school after summer vacation. The average dropped from a B+ to an F over 3 months. This doesn’t mean we can forget about teaching content to students. We still need to build foundational knowledge so that students have a base from which to learn new information. But perhaps we can focus on deep learning on important thematic topics while emphasizing skills that enable students to become life long learners, equipping them to learn what they need when they need it.

      – Gabriela Scarritt, Steelcase WorkSpace Futures

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