Wednesday, June 14, 2017
First Musings on Sabbatical Visits
After the privilege and excitement of traveling and visiting schools that have held my interest for several years I am now attempting to make sense of what I have experienced to see what this means for my own school. As well, I am hopeful that other schools may see some way forward from my findings.
My Understanding of Future-Focused Schooling
I am often challenged as to why there is a need for a major transformation of secondary schooling. Many still believe the current model is the best and that with some tweaking it can continue to serve our young people well. I have the view that the world is vastly different from when the current model was designed and rapid change fuelled by the technological and knowledge revolutions will continue. The problems and issues that the world is facing now and will face in the future are complex and require new ways of thinking and working. I believe schools have a vital role to play in helping young people explore the new ways of thinking and working.
All of the schools I visited spoke of the need for transformation in education. Leaders in these schools all believed the traditional model were beset with stressed students, over-worked staff, university dropouts, conflicted parents, subject siloisation and conveyor belt schooling. Julie Abraham, from DesignTech School. used the analogy of students as cyclists biking faster and faster, competing with the rest of the field, but getting no nearer the finishing line.
My own inquiries and experiences over the last 5 years in leading the establishment of Hobsonville Point Secondary School have led me to a set of principles that need to be evident in learning and learning design so that learning is both engaging and relevant.
Learning Needs To Be Connected
Learning is about making connections between what is known and what is being learned. When we teach subjects in silos we reduce dramatically the likelihood of forming links with other subjects; links which can deepen our understanding and increase the likelihood of relevance for the learner. When students can draw on a range of disciplines, including the related knowledge and skills that each learning area possesses, they are more likely to deepen their understanding of a particular concept.
Learning Needs To Be Co-constructed
For students to be engaged in learning they have to feel a connection. The last thing they need is to feel they are part of a mass production line, learning the same material at the same time and pace as everyone else and having the learning context determined, usually by a teacher, without any input from them. For learning to be relevant and engaging for our diverse learners we must invite them into the conversation that determines the learning contexts. This does not mean we as teachers abdicate responsibility for ensuring coverage of important concepts, skills and knowledge.
Learning Needs To Be Collaborative
Having the ability to work in teams of diverse people and to have well-developed interpersonal skills are vital. These are the key skills students require now to be effective in the workforce. It must be the norm in schools to have students learning in teams and growing their interpersonal skills.
At Hobsonville Point Secondary School we have embedded these ideas of connectedness, co-construction and collaboration in our three principles of personalised learning, powerful partnerships and deep challenge and inquiry.
The purpose of my school visits was to find out if the principles that drove the design of learning in other innovative, future-focused schools were similar.
What I Discovered From My Visits
Please access a fuller blog post for each of the schools:
My next post will summarise the learning design principles I came across in these visits.