It is a NGL meeting of minds!
Over the last several years, I have watched as policy, curriculum changes and the great scrabble for implementation and compliance have gradually begun to suck all the fun out of learning! Our schools days are so cram-packed with achieving outcomes so that boxes can be ticked and grades can be assigned that the process of learning and discovery has been compromised. What happened to pursuing the ‘what if’ and the ‘why’ questions? That deeper richer exploration of learning where anything is possible? Schools are increasingly being asked to do more and more, countless extras keep being bolted on – to what end and at what expense?
I came across an interesting article in which The Australian Primary Principals Association (APPA) also raise concerns regarding the “crowded curriculum” especially in the primary years. APPA president Norm Hart further adding, “We’re worried that [the curriculum] won’t allow for the deeper understanding that we want to have in literacy and numeracy.”
Further, I have been exploring the work of John Hattie for another subject. In his book ‘Visible Learning’ in which he ‘a synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement.’ he highlights the work of Higgins, Hall, Baumfield and Moseley in which they undertook a review of programs ‘to enhance thinking and creative process’. From their findings they developed a four part model for thinking, which I think looks quite interesting.
Interesting, Hattie (2008) also summaries, that;
“Overall creative programs have a large positive effect on outcomes.” (p.155)
But I digress…again!
As an educator, I have always had my own philosophy when it comes to teaching and what it is that I want for my students. In my early days of teaching, a very wise mentor encouraged me to picture each of my students as they entered my class with their own unique tool box in hand. My job in that school year was to add to that toolbox so that when they inevitably moved on they were better equipped to deal with whatever might lie ahead. ‘I am the teacher you need me to be’ is the soundtrack to my philosophy. For some those tools might be social, while others academic or behavioural, or a combination there of. It might include helping them to better understand who they are and what makes them tick, find and/or foster a hidden talent, or just help them to be a more confident, caring and thoughtful human being. Ever year the lessons are different because my students are different!
I take pride in helping my students achieve their best, as I know do all of you, and I tend to let the results (both academic and otherwise) speak for themselves. This goal has become increasingly challenging now that my time is filled with ‘stuff’ that has to be completed, assessed and reported on. My role has changed from that of a teacher to a provider and marker of work…and it happened so quickly!
So I made the decision some time back, much like Brendon, to taking control of the reins again and, spurred on my some of my MOOC courses, looked to make the space and time within my busy classroom schedule for ‘Genius Hour’. A time when my students could explore those areas of burning passion and interest. Like Brendon, I had hear of Google’s 20% approach to innovation, but given the age group I teach, the term ‘Genius Hour’ had the appeal factor!
What a change I saw in my students. We both found ourselves looking forward to Friday afternoons (perfect timing I know) and despite the strict guidelines set down for them around expectations, participation and documentation regarding evidence of learning during ‘Genius Hour’ I have never seen them work harder or with such focus.
Which leads me again leads me to connect with the world of my fellow bloggers Brendon and Annelise and add another small piece to the discussion. Their accounts of the work of Sir Ken Robinson in the field of creativity and educational change have been well quoted. As a keen TED watcher, I came across a link to an interview (in 3 parts) that he did in 2012 with students from the Santa Barbara Middle School. The premise for the interview is that they present Ken Robinson with a blank cheque to ‘create the school of his dreams’. The questions they use to guide the discussion prompt some interesting and thought provoking responses.
A little closer to home, in my Facebook feed I recently came across a link from the Queensland Government. Which read:
“All Queensland students from Prep to Year 12 are invited to have their say on the future of education in Queensland. We want to hear your suggestions on how we can ensure all students are given the best education and outcomes.”
With due diligence, I forwarded the link to my nieces and nephews for their consideration, nothing like homework from their Aunty Anne!
In conclusion this leads me to challenge us all to imagine the possibilities if you were given your own blank cheque to create the education system of your dreams…
Hattie, J. (2008). Visible Learning : A Synthesis of Over 800 Meta-Analyses Relating to Achievement. Hoboken : Taylor and Francis.
National curriculum review: Primary school principals want more focus on basic literacy and numeracy. (2014), Retrieved August, 19, 2004 from http://www.abc.net.au/
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Image by: Wayan Vota