Remaking Education

Our Time to Change the Narrative

We are living in an innovation economy where value and survival are driven by bold, new ideas that disrupt the status quo. And yet, we continue to educate in an antiquated way, as if for a bygone era. Our current educational system is based on an old model of transactional learning, one where knowledge is authoritatively transmitted and passively absorbed. In our current context, this approach holds us back not only as individuals, but also as a society.

We know that other models of education work: educational experiences where invested mentors encourage active learners by engaging in hands-on, collaborative work attached to authentic outcomes. The rising tide of artificial intelligence and other technologically-mediated educational approaches have their place, but they won’t produce experts in the process of innovative problem-solving. The most impactful educational experiences are those that foster collaboration, a bias towards action through experimentation, and those that attend to the social, historical, political, and personal context of our work—as well as its ethical and equitable consequences.

To reframe the conversation about how education can embolden and empower us to innovate, Olin College of Engineering and Emerson College hosted a very unusual event on November 2, 2018, called Remaking Education. The event – attended by 350 educators, business leaders, philanthropists, and students – was an opportunity to change the dominant narrative about education and spur meaningful action.

The event was organized around three primary modes of engagement.


First, the teams of faculty, staff, and students developed three hands-on experiences for participants, called Deepen, Design, and Dissent (it was a 3-D experience!), tools and habits of mind that help us envision and pursue a different future. Everyone had an opportunity to engage with each of these three experiences once during the day. These experiences were designed to be productively uneasy, meaning they will encouraged participants to think and act in different ways, and challenge them to leave their comfort zone in pursuit of gaining actionable new insights and tools. Because if we keep doing (and thinking and feeling and relating) what we’ve always been doing, true change is very unlikely.

Second, throughout the day participants returned as a collective to the Orchard Stage to hear personal narratives from our slate of storytellers. While the hands-on experiences got participants engaged with conceptual ideas and practical tools, first-person stories of people for whom education has had a profound impact will grounded all of us in the messy reality of being human. Ultimately, education is about changing lives – and our storytellers reminded us about the powerful and personal effects of our educational system on who they have become.

Third, we created space for informal connections throughout the day, where participants could talk with other passionate people about their emerging ideas and plans. These were moments when serendipity gave rise to new collaborative adventures.

Our hope for the day was that this diverse group of people assembled together in the Paramount Center will have arrived as a crowd, but leave as a parade. Each participant came from different places – demographically, intellectually, professionally – and returned to those different places after the event. But we hope that everyone left the experience marching to a shared drumbeat, creatively carrying forward a collective rhythm for creating change in many different contexts. Remaking Education – this event and the broader mission captured by that title – was an experiment. We tried to embody our values, working together to try something new.

The Remaking Education team was led by the following faculty, staff, and students from Olin College and Emerson College:

Jonathan Adler, Sharon Breitbart, Lauren Taaffe with
Sarah Spence Adams, Kristin Casasanto, Kevin Comellas, Anne-Marie Dorning, Michelle Davis, Himanshu Dubey, Gillian Epstein, Zak Fayssoux, Alyson Goodrow, Eric Gordon, Jeff Goldenson, Steven Himmer, Jonathan Jacobs, Brooke Knight, Paul Mihailidis, Amon Milner, Bethany Nelson, Sally Phelps, Tim Ferguson Sauder, Travis Songer, Miriam Stulin, Robert Wechsler, and Alison Wood.