At our school, we have 15 minutes of ‘circle time’ every morning, before classes begin. In my classroom we use it for cooperative activities, planning the day ahead, or talking about our current unit of inquiry.
Last week the children got to talking about the pre-election debate on television between Julia Gillard and Tony Abbot. Some of the children had watched this because our unit is about persuasive techniques and language. They were preparing for class debates this week too. At first the talk centred around debating techniques, but soon developed into a discussion of the issues related to the debate. One child said “Julia Gillard thinks that her My School website is a huge success”. This is a website set up for parents to see a school’s ranking, which is determined by one set of data, provided by national standardized tests in maths and language. I asked the students what they thought about it.
We talked about the relevance of standardized tests and the children realised that such testing does not necessarily reflect true learning. They brought up the fact that there is so much more to school and we can show our learning in so many more meaningful ways.
We moved from there onto what learning is ? We spoke about the acquisition of knowledge or facts and compared that to learning for enduring understanding. I found myself discussing the ‘avocado model’ of learning with my 11 year old pupils.
One child relayed a story of an 8 year old who can name every capital city in the world and they questioned the value of knowing such facts. We spoke about concepts and big ideas being more useful than a bunch of facts that are readily accessible on the internet.
After the discussion I had to pinch myself! I realised that the discussion I had just had with a group of 11 year olds was similar to one I might have with my adult colleagues. I realised how much things in the classroom have changed….