Posts Tagged ‘elementary school’
It is currently a frustrating and challenging time in education. It seems as if teachers and educators are speaking one language and having one set of outcomes for the students they teach, and politicians, the media, and parents are speaking another.
Because they are.
It is occurring because they are standing in different paradigms. We are in the midst of the biggest paradigm shift in the human existence and we all are experiencing issues that I suggest are normal to the shifting of paradigms.
To give you a sense of this and give some context to what the education system will be going through over the next few decades let’s look back at the last global paradigm shift.
Pre-Industrial Age to Industrial Age (up to mid-1700’s)
Prior to the Industrial Revolution (1770’s) a broad (or liberal) education was limited to the wealthier middle and upper classes who could afford tuition. For the most part education was provided by religious organisations and focussed on Latin, scripture study and Aristotle’s works (logic). This was appropriate to the social and economic structures of the time as it was the wealthy middle and upper classes that controlled trade and political power. There was no need to educate the large proportion of the population as they only needed sufficient education to ply their trade (which for most people was quite local). Life for the masses was subsistence living and life expectancy and quality of life was quite low for the majority of the population.
During the 18th and 19th centuries there were several important developments that led to the creation of the current educational system.
Firstly, following the Reformation, education theory took a leap forward with Comenius (1592 – 1670), amongst others, proposing the idea of human learning as a progression from youth to maturity and from elementary to advanced knowledge. This lead to the concept of universal education covering topics and subjects that were actually useful to the life of the increasingly urbanised towns and cities where the population had grown significantly. There was resistance to this movement as “too much schooling would make the working poor discontented with their lot”. The class system saw the education of the poor as a threat.
It was really the Industrial Revolution that spurred Governments into providing national education systems because industry required workers with more than limited reading skills and a catechetic focus. As the period of the new Industrial Age progressed and democracy widened, development of public education was slow. It took many years and an extraordinary amount of investment and political will to develop the educational systems. In countries such as Australia and the USA the push was for a common model of education to reduce ignorance (and thus crime) and create good, moral and law-abiding citizens. In the UK the public school system was initially developed in-line with the entrenched class system and later theories of “intelligence” to ensure a divided public education system.
Regardless of the country, public education focussed on what could be considered a factory-model with children in “date of manufacture” groups, “one size fits all” teaching and curricula, where most learning was by rote, memorisation and instilled in students “the advantages of being orderly, clean, punctual, decent and courteous, and avoiding all things which would make them disagreeable to other people”. To ensure quality control students were tested to determine if they knew what they needed to know to work in industry. As the prosperity of the countries grew, this industrial educational model embedded into the fabric of society and the systems and structures have become entrenched in how western society functions.
During this growing Age of Industrialisation this educational approach worked well.
It allowed for the economic and social rise of people from the lower classes. In the countries that educated their populations, there has been a huge leap in the quality of life and life expectancy for the masses. It expanded trade for manufactured goods and services beyond localised villages and created opportunities worldwide. It prepared people to operate in an industrialised and urbanised society. It allowed for countries to efficiently build their infrastructure and economic output around an industrial framework (as Seth Godin points out in “Lynchpin”, most corporations and organisations still follow the factory formula). It allowed for economies of scale by being able to educate large groups of people quickly using minimal resources.
For around two hundred years worked really, really well.
What there is to note is that in the shift of paradigms during the Industrial Revolution are:
- It took a while for the infrastructure, governmental systems, and educational practices to create the public educational systems to be formulated and then mature to be effective
- It took visionary political will working over a long period time to ensure the embedding of the paradigm
- There was resistance by people and organisations in power
- Economic necessity and profitability drove the change
- Education lead to the increasing democratisation of the countries as people gained the knowledge and wherewithal to create a more equitable system for all.
- Corporate, government and educational working structures and systems began to match the new paradigm for efficiency and prosperity purposes
- People were educated and trained to fit the new industrial paradigm
Industrial Age to Information Age (1980’s ff)
With the advent of personal computing, the internet, and social networking there has been another profound paradigm shift in humanity.
No longer is information scarce and knowledge held by the few. There is a wealth of information and knowledge accessible within moments. Experts around the world are at your fingertips on any topic you wish with increasing access to live feeds, videos, lectures, blogs, podcasts, webinars, and so on. And this will become progressively richer and expansive over time with better search engines, more validated and expert voices going online, and the exponential growth in computing technology and software.
No longer is trade confined to your local suburb, state or country. Individuals and organisations can develop niche markets and create sustainable income by reaching out to individuals and marketing worldwide. Companies can compete globally online. In some domains there is no longer the need to have the same bricks and mortar investment to run a successful company. Everyone now has access to creating businesses (not just those with capital, wealth or power).
No longer is media only the purview and voices of the rich and powerful. Individuals can express their views, argue and debate, follow the news, create the news, campaign, learn about what is happening in the world … all from home. A progressively greater number of voices will be heard and interests served.
I could go on but you know many of these things and probably see much more than I. In its essence we are at the beginning of a period of human history that is rapidly changing. We cannot predict what the world will look like in 10 years let alone by the end of this century.
What you should note however is that:
- It will take a while for the infrastructure, governmental systems, and educational practices to create the new public educational systems to be formulated and then mature to be effective
This will cause much of the debate raging in countries as they compare themselves via assessments like PISA and then explore and develop structures and systems that are forward thinking and prepared for the constantly changing world. I suspect that Finland’s model of education will lead the world for many years to come.
- It will take visionary political will working over a long period time to ensure the embedding of the information age paradigm
This is one of the challenges because we have yet to see people with the political will to challenge the status quo and plan for the long term future. In fact, the system of short terms for political parties and pandering to the status quo has resulted in a democratic system that only allows small incremental changes.
- There will be resistance by people and organisations in power
We are currently witnessing this quite a lot from the poor media portrayal of schools, politicians and parents still thinking purely from an industrial age concept of the world, and businesses trying to model the education system on their industrial model
- Economic necessity and profitability will drive the change
As prosperity becomes driven by opportunities arising from the Information Age Paradigm then this will become more so. I suspect that there will be a greater diversity of blended industrial and information models arising for companies and corporations. We never lost the need for agricultural structures and systems with the shift away from a purely agricultural paradigm.
- Education will lead to the increasing democratisation of the countries as people gained the knowledge and wherewithal to create a more equitable system for all
Notice the rise of organisations such as Avaaz, GetUp in Australia and Wikileaks. As people are more informed and able to collaborate and organise over vast distances there will be a resultant increase in the rise of equitable democracy.
- Corporate, government and educational working structures and systems will begin to match the new paradigm for efficiency and prosperity purposes
See Google, Facebook, Amazon, Zappos, Intel, etc. Their workplaces are models of creativity, fun, industriousness, and innovation.
- People will be educated and trained to fit the new information age paradigm
Educational systems and approaches will change. The one size fits all teacher directed model is already experiencing challenges and digital native students are no longer satisfied with boring, content-focussed education. I can imagine that within 10-15 years the development of educational hardware and software will match to address the wide student interests and academic variance that exists within our schools. Currently we are dealing with the technological challenges that our funding and infrastructure does not allow for.
It is interesting to note that educational approaches such as inquiry learning, divergent thinking, and differentiation has been around for decades (much like Comenius educational philosophy was around for decades) and is only slowly now being implemented in schools. However, there is no throwing the baby out with the bath water. Great education has always been great learning.
The work that we (Intuyu Consulting) focus on in schools is working with them to shift their thinking, staff culture, staff planning and structures to the new information age paradigm BEFORE they necessarily have the technology in place. Technology has always been an accelerator … not the answer. We empower the staff to be the creators of what works for them and their circumstance as they stand in the bigger picture. What we have found is that they are enlivened and begin to work with each other and the students to create exceptional learning, projects and results while still operating inside of the current educational and funding paradigm.
 Gillard D (2011) Education in England: a brief history, www.educationengland.org.uk/history
 Chitty C (2004) Education Policy in Britain Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
 The Evolution of Education in Australia, http://www.historyaustralia.org.au/ifhaa/schools/evelutio.htm
 Sir Ken Robinson, Changing Education Paradigms, 2010
 Lynchpin: Are you Indispensible? Seth Godin, 2010
Creative Commons Copyright: Intuyu Consulting 2011
Recently in preparing to talk at the NSW Department of Education and Training Conference I thought about what would be necessary to think about if we are preparing young people for the 21st Century.
One of the topics that came up for me was school architecture. I visited Rowellyn Park Primary recently and had a walkthrough of their new school building with the principal and teachers. One of the conversations that came up was about thinking about using the new space. What a number of the teachers had discovered upon visiting other schools with open learning spaces, was that some teachers had begun to block off areas to limit the space. It brought up the point that we really need to rethink how we use space and how we develop students to respect and be responsibile for the way the space is used.
Given this and further discussions I have discover an article which i thought I would share with you from ESchoolnews.com on design recommendations that American Architects are making to school designers and school districts. This article si 4 years old but highlights the importance of thinking about school design and use!
Here is the article in full:
Here are eight key principles for effective school design in the 21st century.
The National Summit on School Design, convened by the American Architectural Foundation and Knowledge-Works Foundation, recently brought more than 200 participants from around the country to Washington, D.C. After discussing several school-design topics, summit participants agreed on eight key principles for effective school design in the 21st century. These are:
1. Design schools to support a variety of learning styles. Not all students learn the same way, studies show. In designing new schools, stakeholders should reexamine the idea of the traditional classroom setting and focus instead on new kinds of environments that can support student achievement. This requires greater flexibility to accommodate a range of learning scenarios, both inside and outside of school.
2. Enhance learning by integrating technology. Besides the use of technology tools in classrooms, recent advances also allow schools to better control heating, cooling, air flow, and noise and to improve communications with stakeholders. Consult students about what kinds of learning technologies they’d like to use in school, summit participants recommended–and don’t forget to train educators in their use.
3. Foster a “small school” culture. Though the size of a new school should be determined within the framework of a community’s needs, vision, academic goals, traditions, and economics, there are important benefits to developing a “small school” culture that fosters close relationships, participants said.
4. Support neighborhood schools. Look for ways to preserve neighborhood schools whenever possible, participants urged. Neighborhood schools allow many students to walk to school; strong neighborhood schools boost property values for nearby homeowners; and preserving neighborhood schools reinforces the link between the school and its community.
5. Create schools as “centers of community.” Many school districts are building schools that serve as the hub, or central resource, of the entire community. In these cases, the facility is used not only as a school but as a location for other community services, such as recreational centers or performing-arts spaces–fostering greater public support and playing an important role in the community’s health. If you choose this route, however, make sure you consider policies and design elements that will ensure the safety of students.
6. Engage the public in the planning process. This process should start early, participants said, allowing for community feedback long before final decisions are made. The process should include all school and community stakeholders, recognizing minority opinions as well. It might help to start with a “visioning process,” in which stakeholders agree what the school’s role in educating students and serving the community should be.
7. Provide healthy, comfortable, and flexible learning spaces. Summit participants overwhelmingly agreed that school leaders should strive to improve the quality, attractiveness, and health of their buildings. Research and experience have shown the impact of spatial configurations, color, lighting, ventilation, acoustics, and other design elements on student achievement. Far from luxuries, these elements can affect students’ ability to focus, process information, and learn.
8. Consider non-traditional options for school facilities and classrooms. Explore options for employing underused civic, retail, and other adaptable, non-school spaces, participants urged. Many cities have community assets such as museums, colleges, research labs, and other institutions that offer the potential for experiential learning and real-life applications of lessons.
I have had an interesting time this week as I went and visited a range of schools to observe teachers teaching (or should that be … provide a space for learning to occur?). I was able to sit in on a range of teachers and the variety of approaches they use to promote learning.
Before I get into the topic of teacher practices I think I must start by saying that good inquiry learning requires elements of explicit teaching, practicing, skill development, and inquiry. It is a mistake to think that you do not have explicit teaching or rote learning as part of the process. Why? Well … if you examine how the brain builds knowledge .. repetition is critical (look at anyone trying to learn a new sport). Explicit teaching is critical … you cannot develop critical thinking skills without having a knowledge base.
So let’s discuss practices …
The context where inquiry learning works best is one where the students (and teachers) are developing certain capacities and skills whilst learning about something. In a content focussed curriculum there is no focus on skills apart from that which has content understood.
They are two different paradigms and lead to two different outcomes.
In the paradigm of developing skills and capacities in our students … everything you or the students do is an opportunity to develop the skills and capacities. Let me give you some examples.
Two teachers were team teaching and while one led an inquiry into a particular topic the other teacher listened in and occasionally added reinforcement to what was said or added to the inquiry to help the students. It was excellent as I watched to see how the two teachers interacted with each other and with the students. The inquiry was engaging and had the students thinking and interacting. It was led purely by asking questions and the students responding. There was even one point where the teacher had one of the students come to the front and share about a practice they had in the class (around literacy) for the other students. One practice I suggested afterwards … to support the learning of the students and to develop a capacity … was for the second teacher to write notes on the whiteboard of the inquiry as the inquiry runs. That way the students see a role model on how to take notes. If the teachers practiced this all the time and then later in the term / semester had the students taking notes as the teacher modelled it .. then they learn note taking skills much quicker (and improve literacy).
A teacher was running a game (called 10 seconds I beleive) where a person had to walk across the room and do it in exactly 10 seconds but without any watches apart from the timer the teacher held. The students then had to guest what time it was done in and the aim was for the walkers to get as close as possible to 10 seconds. This game was a great maths exercise as the students needed to work out “closeness” as well as strategies for thinking about marking time, etc. The teacher used her interactive whiteboard to put the numbers in a grid and had each student fill in their own grid before she filled in the group grid. It was a very rich exercise and I was really pleased about the range of practices and scafolding she had in the session. The one practice I suggested (again to continue to developing particular skills in the students) was to get up a second window on the Interactive Whiteboard and automatically graph the tries so the visually oriented students can see how it their tries are getting closer to the magical 10 second mark.
There are lots of examples of practices that teachers can invent standing in .. “what capacity will I build in my students now?”. Rather than leaving the training of internet research skills just to the ICT lesson … what about doing it in class interactively with the interactive whiteboard and show them your thinking as you search for information (use google, wikipedia, and a range of resources). Discuss about how some information is useful and not (have them say) as you look at things online. Have them give you the keywords to look up and inquire about whether they give good results or not.
A great inquiry learning unit will have lots of embedded practices that teachers have consciously placed in their to develop particular skills.
What are your practices … share your ideas in the comments section!
For those of you interested … two great links with great ideas.
1. http://www.aalf.org/ : A website about one-to-one learning and the teaching practices you can use to scaffold learning as we enter a more one to one environment with technology
2. http://www.sharpbrains.com/: An excellent resource about neuroscience and the brain. It is a general website but some of the articles are extraordinary (e.g. Is Working Memory a better predictor of academic success than IQ?: Dr. Tracy Alloway summarizes a recent landmark study, published in the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, which tracked children over a six-year period. Key finding: Working memory can be a more powerful predictor of academic success than IQ scores)
This week I thought I’d make a short entry but one that could be really useful for you. Yep … I am giving you stuff in this one!
When I lead inquiry learning workshops with teachers one of the skills that they highlight as important for young people growing up in a 21st century environment is planning and organisational skills. If we are going to develop those skills we need to systemize the process such that the students know what to do.
For example, at a secondary school I have visited, they have a set number of templates that they use to generate ideas, capture ideas, display ideas, use to link and mind map, etc. So they train the students to go straight to the templates (tools) when needed. This approach will develop the habits that build the planning and organisational skills. It also lessens the workload for teachers once their students have be trained!
There is no need to reinvent the wheel as there are many resources available on the internet. Here are some:
Search through for what you can use and adjust them to your needs.
The second part of this week’s blog is around De-schooling school and the future of education. I came upon two interesting videos (which I have attached from Youtube) by George Siemens, an educational technologies expert. The first video discusses how schools (and society) are institutionalised and because of this constraint limit what is possible in schools.
The second video, Robin Good (the interviewer), questions George Siemens about what he sees the future of education. George raises soem very interesting ideas and thoughts about the skills for the 21st century and beyond.
I had a fascinating conversation yesterday whilst I was at Rowellyn Park Primary coaching Grade 5 and 6 teachers in developing inquiry based units.
Janette Lewellyn, the school principal, had invited Mike Scadden from Brain Stems (http://www.brainstems.co.nz/) to work with the teachers the following day and Mike happened to be in the room as I worked with the teachers. Mike is an ex-principal based in New Zealand and has a Masters Degree from the University of Tasmania specialising in brain compatible and accelerated learning.
At lunch time we were discussing brain training and developing brain compatible learning in primary school children. At one point he walked to the whiteboard I had been using and drew the following word diagram on the board …
Abstract – Symbolic – Concrete – Transfer
and then asked me in which domain did I see children working. I though for a moment and said .. “children really work in the concrete given they like to be very hands on and see things in front of them”. Mike then pointed out that one of the pitfalls that some schools fall in to is that they try to have the children learn from an abstract or symbolic representation before they are ready for it. So while a child may have a rote learn understanding of the abstract or symbolic representation it doesn’t transfer into their actual learning and ability to apply what they have learnt into different situations.
The small diagram that Mike drew represents a cognitive outline of how we can learn concepts such that they allow for a transfer of knowledge (i.e. able to apply it to other situations and circumstances). Children live very much in the now and their world is very much what they can see, feel, touch, etc. Thus, when I am coaching teachers, I coach them to develop projects that are real, practical and involve community. My intention is that the students start to relate their learning to the concrete world around them.
One thing to note about the diagram is that there aren’t arrows pointing in any direction. In fact the process is not linear. One can go back and forth using abstract, symbolic or concrete representations to cause the transfer of knowledge. I have found, particularly at high schools, that they tend to focus too much on the abstract and the symbolic and thus tend to lose the relationship of the student applying it to their world. Given my background as an engineer and a Senior Lecturer in Aerospace Engineering, I really became clear that just knowing and understanding the abstract concepts or the symbolic representations of the concept does not cause the true understanding of the physical situation and thus the transfer of knowledge.
I believe that one must use all aspects of abstract, symbolic and concrete in ones teaching but the percentage one uses it depends on the age group you are teaching. In primary schools you definitely would focus more on the concrete and introduce the symbolic and abstract more and more from Grade 2/3 onwards. Grade 5 / 6 would still be mostly concrete because that is the world of the children still. As the child grows in their cognitive undertsanding of the world around them then the greater the percentage of abstract and symbolic representations.
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Welcome to 2010 and the start of a whole new year of learning and discovery!
Over the summer I have been involved in doing some research for Dr David Zyngier at the Faculty of Education at Monash University. David and I first met when I took over the ruMAD? program at the Education Foundation and I began to redesign it to be more applicable in schools. Since then David has asked me back each year, no matter what I am up to, to talk to his first year and final year pre-service teachers about inquiry learning and applying it in schools.
Out of the 2009 lecture on Connectedness I asked David if there was some work i could do for him (and that way I can build my knowledge base and continue to develop what i deliver to schools from the latest research). So for the past month I have been reviewing the research literature on after-school programs, on how community-school partnerships can support children who are culturally, linguistically and economically challenged, and how schools can support parents in supporting the learnign of their children.
I was just reading an article about what interventions schools and parents can make for their children when a particular paragraph struck me as vitally important for us all …
“During the early school years children develop perceptions of their own academic competence. Research suggests that these perceptions are established in response to children’s perceptions of their own abilities in school, and become relatively stable by third or fourth grade (Chapman et al., 2000). These self-perceptions appear to determine whether children pursue or avoid opportunities to acquire and refine the academic skills and strategies characteristics of proficient learners, expend effort and persist in the face of difficult challenges (Chapman et al., 2000; Helmke & van Aken, 1995). This suggests that if an early childhood intervention succeeds at boosting children’s academic skills, even if only in the short-term, it may lead children to have more positive perceptions of their own abilities. If instilling positive academic self-concepts increases the likelihood that students seek out learning opportunities and remain engaged in school, then it may result in long-term benefits to human capital.”
Duncan, G. and K. Magnuson (2004). “Individual and parent-based intervention strategies for promoting human capital and positive behavior.” Human development across lives and generations: The potential for change: 209-235.
What this paragraph implies is that we have a critical focus in primary schools and parenting … ensuring that our children’s perception of themselves, their ability to learn, and “who they are for themselves” are empowered ones.
I have been especially noticing the perceptions of my children to themselves over the past year. Ty is 9 years old and going into Grade 4 this year and Chiara is 6 years old and going into Grade 1. I have been picking up the underlying perceptions in what my children say and their actions, and I have taken on to have them think about who they are and what they say as they tackle tasks and communicate with each other.
For example, one of the first words that come out of my children’s mouths when they are attempting something new (or they fail in doing something a number of times) is that it is “hard”. When something is “hard” it creates a perception of being immovable, impossible, overwhelming difficult. In fact one definition of “hard” is that it is “resistant to pressure, not readily penetrated“. But … if you are doing something for the first time (like playing putting a basketball through a hoop, or doing a maths problem or writing a word) then … you may not be successful until you have trained your muscles and your brain in doign what is necessary to be successful. However the word “hard” creates a mental barrier. What I have created for the kids is to replace “hard” with “challenging”. A challenge can be overcome. By definition a challenge is “A test of one’s abilities or resources in a demanding but stimulating undertaking“.
We have also set up, as much as we could, an environment at home where the children read, there are limitations on TV watching, that they participate in homework clubs and other out-of-school activities, and we partner them in their learning as much as we can.
What difference has this made?
Ty, who at the end of Grade 2 was rated by his school as only being midway though Grade 2 in most of his learning areas jumped a year an one half in his ratings so as he begins Grade 4 his is rated as midway through Grade 4. Chiara is rated at midway through Grade 1 after a year of prep (and being in a Reggio Emilio inspired program).
Given the above highlighted research it then is critical for schools to also educate and empower the parents of their students … especially before Grade 4.
It is for this reason I have designed a new seminar for 2010 to be delivered to parents at primary school to begin to educate them on how they can partner their children in developing a positive self-perception of learning. Check out the seminar at the website www.intuyuconsulting.com.au