Monthly Archives: September 2009

Skills for the future with tools of the past – More thoughts on schools, learning and that white paper

Teaching strategies balloonsEducation today operates in a complex, uncertain and ever-changing landscape that mirrors the world we live in. Children face social, economic and technical barriers to learning with schools facing the additional challenge of political, legal and environmental issues to name but a few. The picture is made all the more problematic by the central control politicians hold over education. Placing it at the forefront of the political arena has seen professionalism and creativity systematically taken out of the profession, eroding self-esteem and autonomy.

Central dictate has forced education to become a ‘one size fits all’ model dumbing down the profession and creating a shallow learning experience for most of our pupils. To give today’s children the skills they need for the future, we can’t use the tools of the past or rely on governmental advice and strategy that is dictated by the political calendar, thus ultimately short term. The control held centrally over schools has slimmed down the rich and varied diet of learning we should be offering as schools focus their attention on ensuring they secure success in national assessments – the narrow measures on which accountability hinges. The move towards a new report card system, the controversial ‘licence to teach’ and further government initiatives such as national challenge and one to one tuition do nothing to give the profession the confidence and belief that solutions will be provided centrally, nor that the government believes the profession is capable of meeting the challenges from within.

Schools need to realign themselves with what is needed for the future. An uncertain future. The primary review has begun to question how the curriculum is delivered and the Rose and Alexander reports present thoughtful visions for schools but unfortunately the white paper ‘Your Child, Your Schools, Our Future: Building a 21st Century Schools System’ seems intend on continuing the high stakes accountability game which invites schools to deviate at their peril. The white paper was eagerly awaited but its arrival has disappointed many by its lack of vision and reliance on further policy initiatives and measures with which it aims to further judge school by. It predicates a system with more intervention and fails to acknowledge, celebrate or champion the fantastic teaching out there that is addressing personalisation and inculcating a love of learning in pupils.

For education to meet the needs of our children it needs to recognise and take cognisance of the world we live in, the needs of today learners and the skills they will need to function effectively in an ever changing and uncertain future. The acquisition of core social, cognitive and technological skills are crucial. Being able to function socially, developing a love of learning and the ability to use technology are three key areas that the white paper fails to adequately address.


The days of delivery

The text book of the future

The text book of the future

Are the days of delivery behind us? Teaching comes from a place where the person delivering the lesson was the fountain of all knowledge, the learners empty vessels to be filled. The teacher had to stay at least one step ahead of even the brightest children for fear of losing control.
‘What are we doing next week, sir?’
‘Can’t tell you now, you’ll find out next week.’
In today’s classrooms the balance has shifted. Teachers have to let go, there is so much knowledge out there, and so many experts in accessing that knowledge, that a new approach is necessary if we are to provide the best learning experiences possible. So little technology is fully embraced in the classroom today because the teacher is afraid of letting go and allowing the learner to take the lead. I am regularly blown away by what young children already know and use out of school in terms of technology and I am constantly looking at ways of bridging home and school learning so that it becomes a seemless whole.

As it was in the past – where some teachers were afraid of telling children what they would be learning next week for fear of them knowing too much, so it is today – where technological knowledge and understanding are being kept out of the classroom. Great teachers embrace this technological approach to pedagogy, they allow young learners that freedom, they take risks, they encourage and inspire. Teaching today is a two way process, where the learners brings as much to the lesson as the teacher.
‘What are we doing next week, sir?’
‘I wonder if you could go and find out as much as you can about…….and we’ll take it from there.’

Is all that teaching getting in the way of learning?

All that teaching - getting in the way of learning!In our school, one brave teacher allowed himself to be filmed – on viewing the lesson we noticed how much time was taken with delivery from the teacher and how little interaction there was between the learners.   So much of what the learners were doing was stil locked into the ‘passive recipient’ mode.   Sometimes we need to see ourselves in action and reflect on our practice to get a clear picture of the diet we are serving up in the classroom.   The balance has to be right, it varies according to what you are doing but we must be conscious of the dangers of allowing too much teaching to get in the way of real, active learning