I will admit that the image I used at the top of the article is a bit overstated but not by much. Not every classroom looks like this regarding student interest but most are not too far removed from this image either. The point is there are some and that’s too many. After how many years of “investigating” alternate methods of educating our children we have come up with very little that would constitute any meaningful change and the learners in our school systems would likely agree. There has been a great deal of press coverage that has not done a creditable job outlining or explaining the new thinking about transforming education. It is so much more than just providing information and data and expecting the kids to pick it up or understand it in some form that they might be able to use somehow-someday-perhaps. The kids are telling us what they need and to date we have only paid them lip service.
I fully support, endorse, agree, and hope that we can find a way to listen to what our kids and the experts who know what needs to happen to move ahead are saying. We need to begin transforming education and the methods by which our kids are supposed to learn.
The place to start is to provide a simple, clear, no double speak and easy to understand description of the two options one of which is most likely to be implemented.
The first option is to tinker with what is happening and has been happening for a very long time. This option would see a minimum of change take place and not much improvement in the outcomes. Classrooms would continue to be served by one teacher generally at the front of the classroom who requires the learners (students) to be quiet and focused and to pay attention to what he/she is saying. This person is often referred to as the “sage on the stage.” The second option would represent wholesale change in that there is no “talking head or sage on the stage” but rather an educator who presents information by many different means–eg. technology, u-tube presentations, experiential methods–“Do and learn” instead of “learn and do.”
Many parents and the general public for that matter have been told a slightly different story about what a learner centered program VS. a teacher centered program is about.
Some of the misconceptions about a learner centered program suggest that the students will only study what they want. Many believe that kids aren’t mature enough to create a course of study that will be of use to them when they enter college or university. In fact the concern is that they will not be prepared to succeed at that level. Yes there will be some major changes in the study programs–certainly curriculum will be different and yes the students will have choices about what they want to study according to their interests, skills and talents. Why would they study programs and try to incorporate information/data that they believe has no relevance to their ambitions or life goals. Although the challenge is about deciding and understanding the choices they make the other challenge is to decide HOW they will receive the data or information in a way that makes sense to them and that they understand. Here we are discussing the “pedagogy”–the method used or the practice exhibited when “teaching.” The old system would have students sit still, be quiet, allow the teacher to be in total control of dialogue and discussion. A new learner centered program would turn that around so that the students could speak, discuss, ask questions, work in groups thereby developing their skills regarding collaboration, communication and investigation but most of all it provides an opportunity for the learner to feel that they are in control or have some control of their lives, what they decide and which area of interest they want to pursue. This is as it should be. They want to be equal partners in the choices and decisions they are expected to make concerning their futures.
In the movie “Whose Life Is It Anyways” Richard Dreyfuss helps the audience see that we are each given a life which is unique to us and because it belongs to us we have a right to spend it as we choose. It would be easy for a conversation about this topic to branch off in all directions. The point remains that we may not agree with the choices our children make about their education or any other decisions for that matter but as long as those decisions don’t encroach upon the rights of others to do the same–meaning make decisions that they believe are made in their own best interest, we really don’t have much to say unless asked for our opinion or feedback.
This is a 2 part series. Next week we will look at a variety of topics including:
–doing away with the need for homework; doing away with standardized testing; eliminating the use of “grades (grade 10 or grade 11 etc.) and grading in general; what it means to educate the ‘whole’ learner and who are the hard-to-serve learners? I’m sure there will be other topics as well.
We may not want to think about it but education and doing it in concert with the new social times is more crucial to address–NOW– than important issues such as poverty, homelessness, political correctness, immigration and on. This is not to take away from the importance of those other issues but this one is the one that will help solve the other social issues of our time.
Anyways, that’s how I see things.
I welcome your views so please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
All the best, Jim
(use of the photo image by ‘getsomezzz.blogspot.com’ used for research, educational or criticism purposes. I derive no financial benefit from the use of this image)