Assessing Education Needs

"Our educational system must be retooled to maximize needed skills and attributes at every level."- John Duley
By John Duley

This is the second post in a guest series by John Duley. Here, he discusses what changes need to occur in our education system. He hopes you will join the conversation in comments below.

Since the advent of Information Technology, questions have been raised about the adequacy of our education system.

In 1967, Marshall McLuhan wrote The Medium is the Massage.  What he wrote then is as true today as the day he wrote it:

“It is a matter of greatest importance that our educational institutions realize that we now have civil war among these environments created by media other than the printed word. The classroom is now in a vital struggle for survival with the immensely persuasive ‘outside’ world created by new informational media. Education must shift from instruction, from imposing of stencils, to discovery—to probing and exploration.”

I am interested in this issue because I have sought to give students as much responsibility for their own education as possible, and to provide coaches and mentors to support and encourage them. I am interested in exploring what relevance my experiences (detailed in post one) and service learning literature might have for the redesign of education.

What is the Challenge?

McLuhan indicates that the challenge lies in “how to break through the educational lock-step system in which students learn to become professional students seeking credentials and not learning; psyching out what the professor wants from them in order to be granted an A or a 4.0 grade.”

Another scholar, Dr. Lee Shulman (2002) pointed out that, “Many educators across the world know the six categories of Bloom’s (1956) Taxonomy of Educational Objectives by heart: knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation.  Professor Bloom (1956) recognized that the cognitive domain was only part of the picture, so, several years later, Dr. Krathwohl, Dr. Bloom, and Dr. Masia (1973) added the affective domain taxonomy. It depicts how learners move from a willingness to receive an experience, to beginning to respond to it, to valuing what is taught, to organizing it within their larger set of values and attitudes, and ultimately to internalizing those values,” (Shulman, 2002).

Knowing the value of taxonomies, Shulman created one for a pedagogy of engagement and labeled it “Making Differences: A Table of Learning:”

The categories above read: Engagement and Motivation; Knowledge and Understanding; Performance and Action; Reflection and Critique; Judgment and Design; Commitment and Identity.

The categories above read: Engagement and Motivation; Knowledge and Understanding; Performance and Action; Reflection and Critique; Judgment and Design; Commitment and Identity.

According to Shulman, “In a nutshell, the taxonomy makes the following assertion: Learning begins with student engagement, which in turn leads to knowledge and understanding. Once someone understands, he or she becomes capable of performance or action. Critical reflection on one’s practice and understanding leads to higher-order thinking in the form of a capacity to exercise judgment in the face of uncertainty and to create designs in the presence of constraints and unpredictability. Ultimately, the exercise of judgment makes possible the development of commitment. In commitment, we become capable of professing our understandings and our values, our faith and our love, our skepticism and our doubts, internalizing those attributes and making them integral to our identities. These commitments, in turn, make new engagements possible—and even necessary.”

More recently, Thomas Friedman in his book Thank You for Being Late (2017) summarizes the situation for the need for reform in public education:

“After WWII, the countries of Europe’s manufacturing capacities were decimated and the USA was the only country able to pick up and move ahead so it was possible for working folks in USA to have a good life—a eight-hour seven day a week, good paying job, buy and own a home, educate your kids, save for a retirement. But now that has gone like Kodak film—it is no more.  When I got out of college I could find a job.  Today my daughters must make ones.  When I attended college, I learned skills for life. For my girls they learned skills for now and will have to learn new skills for life.”

Friedman indicates that becoming life-long learners is an absolute necessity for them. You must reinvent yourself, and obtain at least some form of post-secondary education.

Friedman, in chapter seven titled “Just Too Damn Fast,” uses the typewriter and its longevity, over 100 years, as the example of the slow speed of change in the previous period of growth and development—and what is transpiring now (Friedman 188-193).  At the introduction of the Smart Phone, the value of the cell phone and the iPad almost instantaneously dropped dramatically as significant iTech tools.

Friedman concludes that at a minimum, our educational system must be retooled to maximize these needed skills and attributes:  strong fundamentals in reading, writing, coding and math, creative thinking, creativity, communication and collaboration, grit, self-motivation, and life-long learning habits and entrepreneurship and improvisation—at every level.

In future blog posts, we will explore what changes are being suggested and tried out. I hope you will share your ideas here and with each other.



Friedman. Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations. Macmillan Publishing Group. 2017.

McLuhan, Marshall. The Medium is the Massage. 1967, ed: 2001.

Shulman, Lee. “Making Differences: A Table of Learning.” 2002.