One way to think about an education system it to think of it as a race against time for mastery. There are only so many instructional hours and learners have so many different needs, some of the easy to address, some harder to address, and some that need a comprehensive intervention. This way of framing an educational system made me think of a medical triage process during a large scale disaster. The analogy goes like this:
You have a lot of people who need a lot of different kinds of help. You can’t ignore any of them, because they all need your intervention, but you must to do two crucial things:
2. You must apply your most expert, most scarce, and therefore most expensive resources (expensive in time, salary, and sophistication) as precisely as you can to those who truly need them the most.
While not crucial in an emergency (no one is going to die immediately over this one), you have another goal:
To accomplish the above, you need to have a system for most of the people that provides an ever widening scope and degree of intervention (start with a first aid kit for self-treatment and work your way up) while quickly identifying those with severe needs that the other solutions aren’t going to be able to address and pulling them out of the queue and moving them directly to the comprehensive help they need.
Just about every organization that is responsible for helping others learn is in a similar race against time to get the right help to the right people in what can be an environment of scarce teaching/tutoring resources (making it "crowded") and with limited, sometimes conflicting information about the exact and diverse needs of each learner (making it "chaotic").
So applying the principles of triage to a learning organization:
a. The more you know about the learner coming in, the quicker you are going to be able to identify needs and issues. Every scrap of demographic information, every bit of data from their previous learning experiences, and any surveys or diagnostic tests they complete at sign up is all going to help you figure out their needs more quickly.
b. The smaller the chunk of meaningful learning you can assess and the quicker you can do so, the sooner you are going to be able to identify issues and needs.
c. If you can identify major risk factors early on, you can save the inefficiencies of applying remedies that are not adequate and you can increase the amount of time the learner has exposure to the right remedies.
a. You first must make sure that your instructors/mentors are undistracted so that their very expensive, expert time is not spent on paperwork or other administrative matters.
b. You must have experts that truly understand the proper, most effective interventions and how to apply them.
c. You need to provide your instructors with the necessary diagnostic data so they can be efficient and accurate in their intervention. See 3.b. below.
a. First, you must have an ecosystem that has a variety of interventions to apply. If you only have a hammer, you are only going to pound things. We need a diverse toolbox from which to choose.
IMPLICATION #6: We need to develop diverse, calibrated, escalating, mutually aware, agile instructional interventions that are systematically applied if and when the previous one proves to be inadequate for timely mastery.
b. You must have real-time, reliable data that lets you know which intervention to apply to whom.
IMPLICATION #7: We need a highly sophisticated learning analytics system that measures learner progress velocity and mastery in real-time and can either automatically apply interventions reliably and intelligently or prompt a instructor/mentor to select an intervention from a vetted and targeted set of options to apply.
As an incredibly useful byproduct of the above, this system will generate an auditable trail of evidence of learning and mastery on a per learner basis that can be used to show all kinds of internal and external stakeholders exactly what the learner knows and how they learned it and we can use the same audit trail to teach ourselves how to teach the learners better.