Thursday, 10 December 2015

A NEW SCHOOL MODEL: The Teaching Hospital

I am indebted to the Knight Foundation and Eric Newton for their presentation in November, 2013, to a group of Dutch journalists in Amsterdam.  The content regarding K-12 schools is mine and I take responsibility for any mistakes, misunderstanding or errors in laying out a design for these kinds of schools*  
Gary R. Gruber, Ph.D.  © 2015

The teaching hospital is deeply rooted in community and so are schools.  In these hospitals, medical students, under the direct supervision of physicians and nurses learn how to read vital signs, draw blood, insert catheters, set broken bones, deliver babies, do surgery, read x-rays and MRI’s, interpret test results and conduct a range of other procedures. Why?

What a student learns from reading and listening and passing tests is not sufficient to teach you how to be a physician.  This is also true for engineers, mechanics, architects, software designers, pilots  scientists, race car drivers and many other professions.  Nothing has surpassed the apprentice model for learning by doing.  We know that and yet have still not adopted it across a broad spectrum of education, especially for younger students in K-12 schools.

In the United States, there are about 400 teaching hospitals. They develop new cures and treatments because they are action research oriented.  They set high standards for patient care. They treat the most difficult cases while serving the poor. At the same time, they train more than 100,000 new doctors and other health professionals every year.  Over 200,000 teachers are trained each year.

At this point in time, few if any, schools reflect a complete model of a teaching hospital .  Some have various components like student teachers and interns, or teacher directed research or laboratory and studio settings, or high touch, high tech approaches.  even gardens.  Some even have teaching and learning centers attached to the school.  Most either do not or cannot go far enough to be all-inclusive nor can a school be all things for all people.  Choices have to be made.

One of the more familiar models that some might think is similar to a teaching hospital is the classic Lab School, often in conjunction with a university such as the University of Chicago where the Lab School was started by John Dewey.  There are numerous others in various states connected to universities, often with a College of Education.   Stanford and UCLA in California are good examples as are Bank Street and Columbia in New York.  Here’s a description of the Horace Mann Lab School at Northwest Missouri University: “Horace Mann is one of only a small number of laboratory schools in the United States that provides a hands-on, project based learning, individualized approach that is only possible with small class sizes and multiple teachers…Master teachers provide a unique learning environment for all students that include technology, innovative best practices, and exemplary educational experiences.” 

Only about one-half of the states in the U.S. have these specific kinds of Lab Schools and the total number appears to be fewer than 100 in number. And, over time, many of these schools, for different reasons, struggled to maintain their progressive status and leadership positions within their own communities. 

The point here is not to try and replicate these very good Lab Schools but to see how a new model could take advantage of the best of both models – a teaching hospital and a university-based Lab School. 

The challenge is in combining the education expertise with the technological expertise, and combining the entrepreneurial spirit and the community service.  The goal should be to provide greater community engagement and service. Clinical trials should test new techniques and technologies, with results made widely known. The entire context of care has changed: Many of the current procedures, operations, and treatments were not performed a decade ago.

Being in a teaching hospital also means working with other parts of the university to import subject matter knowledge, including marketing, business, technological and entrepreneurial expertise. New revenue streams for business and nonprofit models can be tested. This kind of compelling case can be made for additional funding from a variety of sources including corporate and foundations sources.   We should ask tech companies and their foundations to consider it, too.

Research is the coin of the realm at universities. Spreading applied research throughout the teaching hospital would be a key to its acceptance in the rest of the university.  There are numerous schools experimenting with new models for delivering education today.  They do special community engagement projects. The hope is that those places and people who have almost all the elements will look around and see what they don’t have and add it if possible and appropriate. Constant iteration can lead to transformation.

It is time to move from reforming schools to transforming them.

To duplicate a teaching hospital, a community school would need to combine at least six different elements in one cohesive combination
1.     Students doing the work, i.e. learning as apprentices to great teachers.  Students may also be adults including graduate students.
2.     Exceptional teachers at every level guiding students in order to improve the quality and impact of the educational experience.
3.     Professors and other recognized education experts bringing in topic knowledge and raising issues to elevate the levels of teaching and learning.
4.     Innovators pioneering new tools and techniques.
5.     Academics and practitioners doing major research projects.
6.     Everyone working together with an emphasis of not just informing a community but engaging with it. This sixth element is not a type of person, it’s a way of doing things: working collaboratively with each other and a community.

You don’t have to build a new school as long as whatever you do has its own sense of wholeness. Experiments of any size that contain the six teaching hospital elements will move education forward. They will encourage real-world experience; the latest tools and techniques; best-practices; continuous experimentation;  applied research and an open, collaborative relationship with each other and a community The result is knowledge both to a single community and the larger world. As results multiply, many students, teachers and communities can be the beneficiaries.

(For those interested, a more detailed description of the teaching hospital model as applied to schools is available from the author.)

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