Are traditional schools no longer a feasible option for your children? If so, you are not alone in reimagining what kind of education would work best for your kids. It goes without saying that not every household is a fan of homeschooling. On the other hand, the immediate shift to remote learning led some to reconsider the future of education as we knew it. Regardless of where you and your family stand on what education should look like moving forward, it is safe to say that there has never been a more innovative, out-of-the-box moment for us all to think about classroom learning options.
What is a Micro-School?
Micro-schooling entails smaller classroom sizes with mixed-age groups. The idea can be traced back to the University of California at Berkeley in 2009. Educators designed micro-schools to reimagine a one-room schoolhouse with students of varying age groups learning a hands-on curriculum. Administrators categorized classrooms based on each student’s ability, hence the abandonment of age-level restrictions and criteria.
According to Michael B. Horn, a senior strategist at Guild Education, “Micro-schools were a growing phenomenon before the pandemic.” Although he does not anticipate their growth to continue with its pandemic velocity, he does “expect more innovations in that field to create more viable models for families.” Considering how parents quickly adjusted to remote education, the future of micro-schooling might seem much less revolutionary than it did before. When schools first shut down, some parents, including Horn and his wife, bonded together to create learning pods. Parents of children in varying age groups rotated teaching responsibilities or hired retired educators to keep the pod of students on track with their assignments.
The Advantages of Micro-Schools
Lisa Ghormley, dean and edTPA coordinator at the University of Phoenix College of Education, understands why parents gravitate toward the idea of micro-schooling. She has found that micro-schools can better incorporate different education styles, suggesting that smaller class sizes empower students who learn differently than their peers. Ghormley also pointed out that the project-based learning approach of micro-schools is yet another clear advantage of the reinvented schoolhouse approach. Allowing students to absorb their curriculum in a hands-on setting, from Ghormley’s perspective, offers learners the highest level of learning available.
Micro-schools also offer an advantage to each student’s curiosity. The approach is more engaging than the traditional classroom model, meaning that students are less likely to feel bored during formal instruction. Since micro-schooling does not separate students by age, the method more closely mirrors a real-life professional setting. Horn agrees, citing Salman Khan in affirming that “there is nothing natural about segregating kids by age. That isn’t how families work; it isn’t what the world looks like, and it runs counter to the way that kids have learned and socialized for most of human history.”
The Disadvantages of Micro-Schools
While Ghormley acknowledges the advantages of micro-schools, her praise does not come without reservations. In pointing out the system’s flaws, she mentioned that hiring regulations do not decide a teacher’s qualifications in the micro-schooling model like they do in a traditional classroom model. Therefore, the lack of guidelines in the micro-schooling model does not always guarantee that students will learn from high-quality teachers or instructors.
To further complicate the question surrounding quality educators in the micro-schooling model, it is unclear who the model holds accountable when a student does not perform well. Because micro-schooling does not abide by the same guidelines that the traditional classroom model does, identifying the source of a student’s outcomes is much more challengings. The blurred lines of accountability standards can make closing opportunity gaps more difficult if a student falls behind.
Since the idea of micro-schooling is still not considered commonplace, available research is limited regarding the big picture for students learning in this schoolhouse-like setting. The lack of data creates a looming uncertainty regarding the effects of students missing out on traditional school experiences. For example, the impact on cognitive development for students missing out on social events like field days, science fairs and various extracurricular activities remains unclear.
About University of Phoenix
University of Phoenix is a post-secondary education provider best known for its commitment to adult learners. In 1976, Dr. John Sperling started University of Phoenix to provide adults with more options to achieve higher learning. The University fulfills its mission today through its groundbreaking online learning platform, where students can complete their coursework with some flexibility. In total, University of Phoenix offers associate, bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral degree programs as well as certificate programs aligned with many professional occupations.
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