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KMVT Silicon Valley: Khan Lab School vs. Traditional Schools

Friday, January 6, 2017

This interview originally aired on KMVT Silicon Valley Community Media, ST World Affairs.

Key Takeaways

  • Our model, the KLS Learning Design, places the student at the center because we believe that the student is shifting from being a consumer to a creator.
  • The KLS Learning Design has 4 A's: The first is Approach to Learning, which talks about how we approach mastery-based learning. The second is Architecture of Learning, which talks about the structure of learning at our school. The third talks about Academic and Character Outcomes: when a student graduates from our school, what does s/he embody? The final "A" is Art of Teaching, which we emphasize within our model because – like the role of the student – the role of the teacher is changing. In addition, as part of the Art of Teaching, we examine the way school leadership can best put the student at the center of the education experience and disrupt and challenge the traditional model.
  • Our Approach to Learning encompasses three levels: Content, Context, and Concepts. As Executive Director Dominic Liechti states, "Our students, when they're working on their content, are leveraging a lot of technology which accelerates their learning process; but [the technology] only complements, because the human touch is still needed."
  • The Lead Advisor, in a rough analogy, is similar to a homeroom teacher. This Advisor meets with his/her students individually each week to check in on goals and outcomes: "the student is actually responsible to set his own goals based on a 7-week schedule... he says, 'Here I'm doing Math, and here I'm doing Science, and here is what I want to achieve,' and then after a week [the student] has to sit down with his Lead Advisor and say, 'Here's what I actually have accomplished,' and reflect on all of those goals."
  • A major difference between Khan Lab School and traditional schools is that our approach is concept-based, not content-based. In a traditional school, "you memorize the content and it's not meaningful to you." At KLS, content is applied in different contexts, which are connected to concepts ("big ideas"). As an example, Dominic shares how instead of memorizing the 54 countries of Africa (as he did as a child in Switzerland), KLS students might be asked to learn about the culture and identity of a specific country and then develop a business plan within that country using content knowledge in mechanics, geometry, social sciences, etc. At the end of the term, students present projects such as this to an audience, and the audience provides feedback and helps deepen and bring meaning to students' understanding of the content.