Friday, 28 December 2012

Why School?

I've just finished reading Why School, by Will Richardson - another notch on the holiday reading list belt! 

The book makes a compelling case for why and how education needs to be revolutionised.

The Old [Existing... ] Way

"Our story about education has gone basically unrevised for 150 years. Time's up."

Sure, there have been some changes to the way we educate children over the course of time, but these have been of incremental, even glacial pace given the vast period of time that 'formal' education has existed for... 

A rough timeline of change in Education... 

Whilst there may be some give or take on the actual dates in the graphic above, it can be said with some safety that we, as a profession, are still using some the same methods and approaches that we were [gulp... ] 1000 + years ago!?!

Education has been / is slow to respond to the changing way that society is learning, communicating and recreating. A similarly slow response has been seen from Education to other trends of societal change, including Gamification and Social Media... 
Teenagers and Business are a couple of segments of society that have generally been much quicker to adapt to these changes than Education has been...  

No so much the old, but certainly the recent and current excessive focus on standardised testing and competition, has lead to an inevitable narrowing of focus - narrowing of curriculum content and skills that students are exposed to, as well narrowing methods of measuring how 'good' a student / teacher / school / country(!) is.

The pathway towards educational 'success'..?

This heightened state of urgency regarding testing, data and measurement of progress is all related to a philosophy of ongoing, incremental improvement... This is laudable, as we all [should] want to get better at what we do... 

The Case for Radical Change

Education no longer needs gradual 'tweaking'... We refine, polish and focus on minute improvements when we are near-perfection - our systems and methods were likely closer to this state when we were preparing students for an industrial society. A factory processing model was appropriate when students were likely to end up working in factories, or occupations that relied upon consistent and accurate application of fundamental skills and knowledge. In the future - even now, in the present - there will be far greater value placed upon creativity, problem-solving, collaboration and other much-quoted(!) '21st Century Skills'.
So we don't need improvement, we need significant, revolutionary change - we need to be "doing school 'differently', instead of simply 'better'".  

One of the most significant changes that has occured in society, which Richardson keeps coming back to, is the sheer abundance of information that is available to almost anyone nowadays - there is now unprecedented accessibility to knowledge and knowledgeable people. This information and expertise is only becoming increasingly accessible.

The New Way

"In this new story, real learning happens anytime, anywhere, with anyone we like - not just with a teacher and some same-age peers, in a classroom, from September to June." 

  • Students have increased autonomy about what they are learning - less sausage factory, more motivated learners.

  • Learners should have flexibility about where they seek assistance from - go to where the expertise is, rather than a central, nominated person who cannot possibly be expert in all areas...

  • Provision of opportunities and experiences for children to participate in and learn from digital environments - don't ignore these increasingly significant aspects of our lives. 

  • Discovery, rather than delivery - "move away from telling kids what to learn, and when and how to learn it."

  • More collaborating with other people and creating new products of learning, less consuming of content.

  • Teachers to be collaborating, communicating and sharing with fellow professionals beyond their own school - spread quality practice and ideas.

  • We [students and teachers] need to be good at learning, not simply knowing or remembering - knowledge is not only increasingly easy for people to access, it "is constantly changing and being updated", as well. 

  • Teachers need to adopt a mindset of being ongoing learners - "... the adults in the room need to be learners first and teachers second."

Is inspiring too strong a word..? The book was certainly motivating and left me hopeful that, despite the stodginess of Education systems and the burden of overcoming "the roots of 150 years of tradition around schooling", teachers can begin to join bottom-up reforms of how we teach and how we ask students to learn.

No comments:

Post a Comment