Focus on cSHED to Challenge Students Meaningfully

Focus on cSHED to Challenge Students Meaningfully

I surely could be accused of splitting hairs and perhaps it is so on some level, but the heavy focus on content and skills is problematic. Just take this major point from the Center for American Progress based upon the recent report “Do Schools Challenge our Students“.

We need to find new and better ways to provide students with the knowledge and skills that they need to succeed. (Center for American Progress)

And they aren’t the only ones but just the most recent example I saw today. Presentation after presentation, it is _______ skills. Regardless of what you place in front of it (e.g. 21st, NML, etc), there is still the reality that learning is much more than a set of skills.

I get what we want/what students need to know (content knowledge) and to do (skills) is important. But so is how to think (habits of mind) and what to be (dispositions). The last two we pass off as fluff, as pieces too difficult to measure. Just as bad, we treat them as something that will happen through a content and skill focus.

At the expense of sounding like a broken record, this overemphasis on content and skills often leads to seeing learning as an object: singular definition of achievement that places great emphasis on what is done to students and how students can regurgitate a predefined product.

And here is the thing – perhaps that is why students don’t see school as rigorous as the Center for American Progress reports. Honestly, when the purpose of education is built upon compliance, learning as an object, and a singular definition of achievement it is hard to imagine many students feeling challenged in meaningful ways.

We would benefit greatly from seeing learning as a process of knowing (content), doing (skills), thinking (habits of mind), and being (experiences & dispositions) – cSHED. When this process is amplified by a culture rooted in learning, unlearning, and relearning, we have the type of culture I think is needed in education if we want students to feel challenged in a meaningful ways that are relevant to their lives.

It is only then that we can achieve the real purpose of education: ignite and support the passions of learners while developing the skills, habits of mind, experiences, and dispositions that foster the whole child and qualities of genius.


  1. I really didn’t feel like the report added much to the reform conversation (although I agree with you that they focused too much on content and skills). Par of my concern is with the surveys themselves. I’m not sure how valuable a likert scale survey is when there isn’t someone following up with the individual to ascertain exactly what they mean. That said, I agree with you that we need to focus on teaching students how to think and how to live well not just content and skills. And while I don’t want to add another acronym to our ever-expanding educational glossary, I like the ideas behind cSHED.

    • Good point, Phillip, on the depth of the survey. My lens was so focused on the skill aspect of the survey that I failed to question the various basis of the survey itself. Thanks for the redirect!


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