Monday, February 20, 2017

"The signature characteristic of 21st century schools is students at work"

Because staffing numbers and learning space (classroom) meterage are linked to student numbers the impact on pedagogy is strong.

These formulas mean there is only one thing you can do in a traditionally designed classroom and that is put one teacher with 30 kids. And when you put the traditional furniture in there, there's not a lot of room to swing the cat.  You certainly can't put 50 students and 2 teachers in those spaces, so the formula is saying that peer teaching cannot occur (so therefore is not valued.) As well, you can't put 1 teacher with 6 kids in those spaces because that will create overcrowding somewhere else, so the formula is saying that small group teaching cannot occur (so therefore is not valued.) And even when you go with the only possible combination of 1 teacher and 30 students you can do little beyond the teacher at the front, with some moving around with difficulty amongst the bags and 30 desks and chairs, while students remain at their allotted desk and chair.

Do we honestly think that even though this model might have been appropriate once that that is how learning has to occur? When even us baby boomers know that the world and the working environment is so different to what we experienced, that employability requires a completely different set of skills and dispositions (team work, problem-solving, critical thinking, multi-disciplinary, multi modal, communication, collaboration and creativity) and that our society needs people to develop a strong sense of contribution service and equity - even still we wish to limit pedagogy and learning to the one-size-fits-all model required by the traditional classroom.

If I had enough hair left to tear out I'd be even balder after reading articles like Bernadine Oliver-Kerby's ! Her title Children: Casualties of Flawed Teaching Theory suggests some sort of evidence based conclusions outlining the "Teaching Theory", identifying the flaws with evidence and pointing out the definition of "casualties". What we got was a piece of drivel based on, I suspect, casual observations at a surface level. The dismissive observations made at some point in time re handwriting are used to pan innovative teaching in innovative learning environments and given some national platform.

Thank you Bruce Hammonds for pointing me to Bob Pearlman's chapter from his book whch allows me to park the 'Casualties' article and its thinking in the trash.

I loved this from the chapter: "The signature characteristic of 21st century schools is students at work." Note, he does not mean students doing work (writing notes, reading quietly, answering questions from a textbook), but students at work. In my view, students  at work (meaningful work) has them exploring, making sense, generating ideas, testing assumptions, refining thinking, problem-solving, collaborating, seeking expertise, constructing, communicating, presenting, discussing, critiquing and evaluating.

To be at this type of work they need learning environments that allow for large group, small group, individual, teacher directed, student centred, multiple learning style opportunities. They also need 24/7 access to learning materials and supports (information, criteria, assessment rubrics, calendars, discussion boards and evaluation tools.)

Is Bernadine Oliver-Kerby really saying that these types of learning opportunities in these types of learning environments are not appropriate and relevant for our young people today and that the model and design that was appropriate in the 1950s is still so today? Why would we expect schools to operate on the same model in largely the same environment from then when we wouldn't tolerate it from our hospitals, transport systems, music industry, entertainment, legal, finance etc etc institutions?

I'm with Bob Pearlman. Let's have schools where students are at (meaningful) work. This may be, I suspect, a big part of the answer to the problems of student disengagement, under-achievement and anxiety.


Cindy Wynn said...

I didn't even consider taking Ms Oliver-Kirby's article (opinion piece) seriously. ..... sadly those who know no better may do so. Thanks for putting this credible and evidence based perspective on ILMs out in the public arena Maurie. I was thinking today as I observed students "at work" throughout the remarkable environment of HPSS, that we could invite Ms OK to see for herself.....

Mandy Heim said...

Great article, thank you Maurice. It's always such a pity that the loud and generally 'narrow' opinion of some, based on celebrity or popularity opinion, gets more readership and exposure than that of true informed researchers or practitioners.

Derek said...

Well said Maurie!

Jet Togia said...

Cheehooo!!Awesome read,the classroom needs to evolve like u say!!