If All Change Please!‘s recent One small step post suggested that the way forward for education was to try to get traditional and progressive teachers to try and come to a better understanding of what each are doing, then what would One giant leap for Schoolkind be like?
Well, it might not surprise you to learn that All Change Please! regular Tony Wheeler has some suggestions…
“I’m sorry to be the pouty one throwing my toys out of the playpen, and I really do want progressives and traditionalists to get closer together, but having spent the last 30 years pussy-footing around, tactfully making the connections and emphasising the similarities (in order to make progressive more palatable for traditionalists), all that happens is active/progressive/project-based teaching and learning gets more deeply compromised, misrepresented and sidelined.
The truth is that while it may be possible to identify some bits of evidence in some bits of lessons that look a bit similar, progressive and traditional both start from such utterly different intentions that unless you have felt/experienced/participated/enjoyed both, it is really really difficult to make meaningful comparisons.
As I do, most educators seem to value most what has worked for them, and this is the real problem. Everyone’s had good, bad and mostly mediocre experiences of traditional fact-based chalk-n-talk. Despite what Daisy, Gove, Toby and the Campaign For Real Education would have the media believe it’s still what kids get for well over 90% of the time in schools. In contrast, at the same time well over 90% of people have never ever seen, let alone participated in effective, purposeful, contextualised active learning.
If I were managing a school (perish the thought!) I would want to work with a team that wanted to (amongst other things):
- give young people as well as teachers, real power to participate in the design of new approaches to teaching and learning
- stop using subjects as the key components of curriculum and attempt to replace them with something more like ‘teaching’ (not learning) styles to ensure a breadth of experience
- talk about metacognition as being important for pupils and doubly important for teachers. I would negotiate a process involving pupils and colleagues to help all teachers contemplate and review their own strengths and weaknesses as educators
- encourage all teachers to prepare and maintain a dynamic personal teaching and learning statement (i.e. ‘I think education is important because…’, ‘The role of our school is…’, ‘The capabilities/approaches I bring are…’, etc.) which they share and build into collective dialogues with learning teams
- replace timetabling as a mechanistic process to manage resources/subjects completed by an administrator with a process to choreograph individual pupil’s daily learning experiences managed by experts in pedagogy.
- ensure all children have equal access to ‘purposeful active’ and ‘knowledge transfer’ styles of teaching. As they progress through the system they can opt to specialise in one or other but they will always need some of both.
- manage the range of style and expertise so as not force staff to teach/interact in ways they are unhappy to take on
- as a community search for the similarities/links/connections across subjects and negotiate purposeful activities around these supported by appropriate knowledge transfer.
- group students by interest, experience and capability, rather than age, ability or gender
- encourage the local community (and teachers) to participate as learners, trading time/skills for learning participation
- evidence progress using structured dynamic portfolios, building towards external individual presentation beyond school
- accredit through international collective comparative judgements
- agree more equitable and appropriate measures by which to report school effectiveness (i.e. emotional index, elective participation, community impact, range of destinations)
In the wasteland of the last 20 years of government tinkering and media misrepresenting, this would of course pose a significant CPD challenge and require a multi-million pound marketing budget to convince potential parents. But if we really want to create an education system fit for the 21st century, that’s what’s going to be needed.
In the meanwhile, maybe something we could do as a start is to identify, profile and champion compelling isolated exemplars of active learning and begin to devise possible strategies for scaling up across the whole curriculum and all schools.”
So, if you were managing a school, where would you start? Or perhaps you already are, and have done?