If you were planning a trip, you would first need to know your destination. You would probably not just jump into your car for a random ride to see where you end up. That would lead you to drive endlessly with no purpose. Likewise, in education, teachers need to carefully plan what to teach, how to teach, and the expected outcomes from their students.
In her book, Education, p. 233, Ellen White advises, “Every teacher should see to it that his work tends to definite results. Before attempting to teach a subject, he should have a distinct plan in mind, and should know just what he desires to accomplish. He should not rest satisfied with the presentation of any subject until the student understands the principle involved, perceives its truth, and is able to state clearly what he has learned.”
Seventh-day Adventist educators are about to begin a very exciting new initiative, Standards-Based Learning (SBL). This is being launched by the North American Division (NAD) Office of Education in conjunction with each union and conference.
Standards identify for teachers, students, and parents, what the students must know and be able to do. The teachers use standards as the focus of curriculum, instruction, assessment, and feedback. SBL represents the practices and processes teachers use to create meaningful learning for the students (A Teacher’s Guide to Standards-Based Learning, pp. 3-5).
In SBL, teachers and students use proficiency scales to guide the teaching and learning process. In essence, it is their road map. A proficiency scale can be explained as “. . . a learning progression or set of learning goals for a specific topic, relative to a given standard. It shows teachers and students what proficiency looks like, what knowledge and skills students need to achieve proficiency, and how students might go beyond proficiency”—A Teacher’s Guide to Standards-Based Learning, p. 8.
Helping students become proficient in the knowledge and skills for their grade level is at the heart of SBL. In addition to this, there are other advantages to SBL:
• Improved Student Learning—Since students are actively involved in their own learning, they achieve more. The proficiency scales help the students proceed at a pace that is just right for them, whether low or high level.
• 21st Century Skills—SBL encourages higher-order thinking skills and problem-solving, which are essential to prepare students for today’s world.
• Focused Learning—Teachers are no longer tied to the textbook. The standards guide instruction, and will help the teacher to focus on the most important knowledge and skills the students need at their level.
If SBL is the journey along the learning road, then the integration of faith and learning are the road signs guiding students along the right path. The NAD standards for learning in Adventist schools integrate spiritual truths into all learning.
Educators are being trained and are excited to begin SBL. Ginnie Hakes, South Lancaster Academy vice principal, reflecting on SBL, said, “I’m optimistic and excited about the possibilities. Though I recognize there will be several bumps in the road as we transition, I’m excited to see how this develops and how our students respond.”