One size will never fit all…

I was recently talking with an intelligent, creative and capable young woman.  She has travelled the world extensively, worked and volunteered in many countries, become familiar with different cultures and experienced far more than many people will ever experience.  She has learned to relate to all of sorts of people, mastered a new language and overcome difficult situations.  Although not formally qualified, she is a born teacher and has taught successfully in a range of places and settings.  Yet when she recently decided to study as a ‘mature age student’, she found that the course she had dreamed of was simply not for her.

She told me this…

In this day and age, when there have been so many studies and there is so much awareness of the fact that people learn in different ways, it is incredible that higher education, (from Year 11 onwards) does not seem to have changed at all.  There is still an expectation that every student will fit the mould and learn best within the same old structure, setting and style.

This conversation really affected me.  As an educator, it is something I think about a great deal.  I wonder…

Why is there still an expectation that people, with their differences, will all fit into a particular framework for learning?

How can we as educators cater for the varied learning needs of each of our students, within a system that prefers uniformity?

How long will it take for education to REALLY change?

6 thoughts on “One size will never fit all…

  1. I don’t know the answer, but I think it starts with awareness. The more we discuss with our colleagues, write letters and articles, examine our own catering for individual differences, the more things will change. I truly believe that.

    Sad though, that I will likely be dead and unable to see it for myself.


  2. I struggle with this as well. I also think that we live in the perfect age to make everything individualized for the learner. We all have that teacher that stands out in our minds that we really connected with. I am sure that throughout the world there are many teachers who I personally would have connected with. Why not bring the perfect teacher to the learner? Why not connect them via technology. I’m not sure how all of this could come together, but I am convinced that we are not stuck in this place of uniformity. We are not churning out motor cars.


  3. Out of the mouths of babes. Yes the young have plenty to teach us that hands on experience is of far more value than can be learnt from studying in a formal setting.


  4. This is something I have often voiced during my years of teaching; that paradox between our philosophical understanding of good pedagogy and what happens at the ‘tail end’ of our education systems.
    I have often thought that it’s a case of better the devil you know and trying to cater for a society that has always been educated in ‘that way’. The people that run big companies (some companies) were educated ‘that way’. Parents were educated ‘that way’ and governments want to support both if they want to govern.
    Change is a hard thing to embrace. Change requires a lot of passion and thought. Change requires vision and commitment.

    The belief of many in societies that learning happens within a certain time frame in a human life creates one of the barriers to educational reform. The verbal linguistic focus for an academic education supports the paper/documentation frenzy that the real world demands from our students. And yet it’s the ‘real world’ that was educated ‘that way’.

    Maybe when the real world is full of people who were taught in the primary schools and secondary schools that had an enlightened 21st century education, change will begin to happen. Demands for emotionally intelligent, open-minded, lateral thinkers will start being made.

    What a tragedy it would be if the one person out there who could cure cancer is actually a visual/spatial learner (who also requires time to process ideas) and they became turned off from learning because they weren’t able to explore their passions and thoughts through a path that was exciting and motivating for them!
    She could be out there at this moment.
    Primary school and some passionate teachers will support her but then Yrs 11 and 12 will happen and she has to try learning to pass exams (written exams). She knows what she wants to say and she might have a better way of thinking of something but there’s no room on that exam paper to impart her thinking. It has to be written and there is a time limit!
    I know it’s a somewhat, I hope, exaggerated scenario. But what if …?


  5. it’s here … and it’s incredible… no more waiting.
    if we all just boldy and gracefully acknowledge it and carry on with it.. even when others question it… we’re that much closer to everyone experiencing it.

    great post Edna.. great comments.


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