Top trends in education

Written by Sara Garrison

Education is constantly changing. In order to help children reach their full potential, educators are continually researching and developing new ways to help kids learn while building character, integrity and confidence.

Here are some of the latest education trends in early childhood, primary and sec- ondary education from a few of Wichita’s education experts.

Individualized education

Customized education focusing on each child’s specific needs is a top trend.

“Rather than teaching a curriculum to an entire class, educators are determining each student’s needs and how we can best meet them,” says Kathryn Mahoney, founder and lead elementary guide at Compass Star Montessori. “Every child has different learning styles. Addressing and accommodating the child in the classroom can help the child learn so much more.”

Tom Davis, the headmaster at Wichita Collegiate School, says it is important to develop the complete child at age-appropriate levels. “Character, good judgment and integrity have an application in real life,” he says.

Individualized education also includes developing the child’s interests and experiences by encouraging participation in activities such as community service, theatre, debate, athletics, art and music.

“In addition to academic preparation, it is also important to educate the whole child,” says Milt Dougherty, the head of school at The Independent School. “Students need to participate in activities, which will give them a diverse and enriched learning experience.”


USD 259 is starting year number five of its five-year implementation of a literacy initia- tive for students in pre-kindergarten through high school.

“We have made it a priority to make sure all of our teachers are literacy experts,” says John Allison, superintendent of USD 259, Wichita Public Schools. “How do students become literate? Intense training. Our approach is across the curriculum. If the students don’t have literacy skills, they won’t be successful.”


Technology is present in the world around us. In education, interactive whiteboards, computers and tablets have been integrated into daily learning.

Plymouth Preschool uses SMART Boards in each classroom. This use of technology has inspired students. Kris Quillin, Plymouth’s director, explains: “Technology engages kids. When you use SMART Boards, children are excited about learning.”

In addition to SMART Boards, the Wichita Public School system uses more than 30,000 computers for its 51,169 students.

“We utilize technology with students as young as kindergarten,” Allison says. “We give students the opportunity to use the software technology that engineering firms use, multimedia and video products, animation programs, and 3D printing software.”

At Wichita Collegiate School, each child in grades five through 12 receives a laptop computer to use during the school year. Younger children in preschool through fourth grade utilize laptops and tablets in their daily lessons.

“We look at technology, not as a means to an end, but as a means to help the student learn,” Davis says. “Students can utilize the Internet and access an infinite number of sources and learn more deeply. Our students can view a Harvard professor giving a lecture. This technology makes the whole world a classroom and brings the classroom out into the world.”

Online learning

Education is trending toward online learning. Most colleges offer online courses for students.

“To be prepared for college, students should take an online course,” Dougherty says. “There is not a kid that won’t take an online course as part of their college education. It is important to prepare students for this experience while they are in school.”

STEM (science, technology engineering and math)

There is a significant emphasis on integrating STEM concepts into learning. According to a 2011 study by the Brookings Institute, in the Wichita area more than 21 percent of jobs are STEM-related.

“STEM is not a new approach in education, but it is what American education needs to be competitive in a global economy,” Allison says.


Mentoring programs among businesses, nonprofit organizations and schools are on the rise.

“People will continue to see mentor relation- ships with businesses in our community,” Allison says. “Airbus is partnering with USD 259 to support STEM and literacy. Mentor/partner relationships support career readiness for students.”

Hands-on learning

Hands-on learning gives students an opportunity to participate while learning a new subject. At The Independent School, students can get involved in a zoo science program in cooperation with the Sedgwick County Zoo.

“There are lot of bright kids out there, but they need to be able to use that knowledge in the real world,” Dougherty says. “It is important for students to practice what they learn in preparation for the future and to be able to apply what they have learned.”

Although hands-on learning is a top trend, the Montessori method has focused on hands-on learning since its start in 1897.

“Hands-on materials with spoken lessons and observation of other students helps with retention and internalizing a concept rather than just memorizing the subject, then forgetting it,” says Mahoney of Compass Star.

Parental involvement

Parental involvement is on the rise. Parents are taking an active part in finding the right tools for their child’s learning.

“Parents today are learning their child’s learning styles and seeking situations that are best for the child and not just relying on school programs,” Mahoney says. “His- torically there has a been a wall between parents and education. Parents know their child best; becoming more involved is better for the child’s overall education.”

“As the educational environment changes, educators need to embrace that change and customize learning for students.” - Milt Dougherty, The Independent School

Quillin, of Plymouth Preschool, encourages parental involvement, especially for children at an early age.

“If a parent interacts with kids, the children are more interested in learning,” he says.

Professional development

Wichita Collegiate School notes profes- sional development as an essential element in education.

“We are committed to providing the best professional development for our faculty and staff,” Davis says. “It is important to stay on top of the trends. The future of the world is dependent on teaching the next generation what they need to know.”

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