Market research for schools – studying how people learn for final 3/4 of life

It’s been a long time since I earned an undergraduate degree in economics and a concentration in marketing and management studies. To be honest, off the top of my head, I don’t remember a ton from my lessons on market research…but I remember that it’s important to do some. Of course, I am more than willing to refresh and extend my knowledge and understanding in market research, especially because I think it might be very important for schools.

I’m curious how schools might engage in some important market research – or something closely akin to market research.

How do people learn during the final three-quarters of their lives? Doesn’t that make for a strong research question for schools?

I’m taking some liberties here and oversimplifying a lot of data. Let’s assume that an average lifespan in the U.S. is about 80 years. Let’s approximate that formal education represents close to one quarter of our learning life. [I know formal education could be more or less than 20 years.] Using this admittedly oversimplified data, we can assume that about three quarters (3/4, or 75%) of a person’s learning happens “outside” of formal education.

Wouldn’t it be great market research for schools to study how the learning occurs in this 75% of our lives?

Consider that most schools state as a mission that we are trying to prepare students for something called “real life.” In order to enhance our ability and capacity to prepare students for “real life,” shouldn’t more of school actually look like “real life,” smell like “real life,” sound like “real life,”…?

For nearly a decade, I have been immersed in a research question of my own: If schools are supposed to prepare students for “real life,” then how come more of school doesn’t look more like “real life?” I’m a bit embarrassed that I never thought of the other market-research question until now.

Why aren’t we studying more about how people learn in the other 75% of their lives? How might school be adjusted and adapted to look more like this other 75%? Isn’t that an obligation we face, if we are serious about preparing students for “real life?” Just imagine how much more relevant and engaging and even preparatory school could be with such market research. We could even pool our efforts and contribute our market research to a common repository of findings. Then, we could all get better.

[Note: I keep putting “real life” in quotations because I think school IS real life for the students. In other words, school is not just preparation for “real life,” but school IS real life. It should reflect that fact to a great degree.]

4 thoughts on “Market research for schools – studying how people learn for final 3/4 of life

  1. Pingback: Networks, Peer Progressives, School 3.0, and Future Perfect #IDreamASchool #School3pt0 | it's about learning

  2. Bo, I think this is an essential question, but I think the answer may be very simple and extremely varied. On the one hand, I think we are wired / designed to learn. I think learning happens all the time, and productive, fruitful learning happens whenever we commit to doing something. I don’t think humans need to ask how am I learning, because it simply happens anytime humans engage in some activity. Of course, when it’s self-initiated and voluntary a lot more fruitful learning occurs. On the other hand, I believe humans are learning in dozens, maybe hundreds of different ways because each individual mind works slightly differently from every other (for example, no one has the exact same neural pathways as someone else).

    • Craig, in short, I agree with you. In powerful ways, you help prove one of my underlying points – how might school be more reflective of the diversity of “always on” learning in people?

      But, I was particularly pointing to the trends and systems of human learning. For example, I think all humans learn from EXPLORATION and DISCOVERY. Is this pattern present enough in schools…as a system of learning? As another example, I think all humans learn from PROJECTS (and I mean complex projects, not the simple “right answer” kind). Are complex projects – those with no clear “right answers” – reflected in the patterns and trends of systemic school learning models?

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