What do parents think of student centred learning?

Educators at my school have worked hard during the past few years at deepening our understanding of inquiry learning, developing learner-centred practices, encouraging our learners to take ownership of their learning and building communities of learners which include the teachers as much as students.

But what do the parents think?

While most of our parents are overwhelmingly positive, at least one parent (so far) thinks this it’s a terrible idea…

“The concept of a ‘community of learners’ is terrific in theory, but in practice it:
1) creates a blurred line between those who are supposed to be in positions of authority (teachers, parents etc..) and those who are not (students); and has taught my children to have a voice without teaching them that it is not always appropriate to have a voice and that sometimes their views are not being sought.
2) results in the breakdown of classroom structure, with children treating teachers as they would peers and failing to show an understanding of, or respect for, the status and authority of the teacher.”

So now I am wondering…

  • Why would this parent send their children to a PYP school?
  • What do the children say at home to give parents this impression?
  • Have we failed to help some of our parents understand our beliefs about learning?
  • How do we educate parents whose vision of learning is based on when they went to school themselves?

20 thoughts on “What do parents think of student centred learning?

  1. “…has taught my children to have a voice without teaching them that it is not always appropriate to have a voice and that sometimes their views are not being sought.”
    1. When is it not appropriate to have a voice? Perhaps a lesson on ‘voicing appropriately’ is in order.
    2. Respect is a character issue.

    “…breakdown of classroom structure.”
    1. Isn’t that the point? For students to become responsible for their own choices and to learn at their own pace? Turning to the teacher leader when they need guidance or help?
    Though the years and even today, I cringe inside at some of the “pronouncements” that erupt from my kids’ mouths. But they are becoming independent learners, so I step out of the way and find ways to encourage them to think even deeper.

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  2. Edna, I think we take it so badly when parents criticise us. Teachers are sensitive! Do we need to toughen up, strengthen our responses and unify our beliefs about teaching and learning? It seems like your team is doing this.
    I hope you agree with me that today’s students consistently show respect for their teachers. Mine do. This respect stems from my care, our connection, and the engaged learning on offer. I am at a loss to understand why the other students and I get blamed for the lack of respect shown at home, as reported by some parents.
    Is this all part of the 20th-century learning clashing with the 21st-century learning? I feel that all I can do is continue to provide ‘Windows on Learning'(class blog posts, exhibitions) to help parents understand what learning is really all about.
    Cheers
    Brette

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    1. Thanks, Brette. Blaming the school for home behaviours is an interesting approach some parents adopt!
      ‘Windows on learning ‘ are valuable. Parents at my school are often invited to information evenings, morning coffees and to participate in the learning in a range of ways.

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  3. Hi Edna!

    I believe that each school has its own culture and not every school is right for every child. I’m with you in wondering why this parent enrolled their kid in your school. Then again, maybe it’s just lack of understanding – if not appreciation – of what it all means.

    Perhaps there is some misunderstanding with the authoritative approach (teacher remains the responsible authority in the classroom) vs authoritarian approach where it is indeed possible that the voice of the other is not at all sought in some circumstances. I think there is merit in having students exposed to both because both exist in society. “If you’ve always had a voice, how would you react in a situation where the voice is not sought or repressed? How would you know ho to react if you’ve never been in that situation or even thought it possible to exist?” This might even be an interesting subject of inquiry, particularly in building empathy for refugees, for example.

    anyway. that’s my 2 cents worth. xx

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    1. I don’t know where the parent got the impression that there is a breakdown in classroom structures or that kids have too much voice. I can’t think of any classroom in my school that this is the case! (the response comes from a survey sent out to parents for our PYP evaluation)
      Love your idea for an inquiry!

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  4. Beautifully said Brette. I couldn’t agree more. I find that I get even more respect and trust from my learners through this approach than when I used to stand up the front and go blah blah blah, one false move and look out…

    In terms of educating parents, we do it one at a time… Invite them in, show them, narrate to them what they are seeing and hearing. It is very different to their own education experiences. Give them time. And you? Roll with those punches!

    Nga mihi
    @fuse711

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  5. Well firstly let me say you are not alone. Having a strong pedagogy is essential and it sounds like you have one. Restating it in different ways is essential also – hearing student voice (via youtube clips etc…) is also essential for parents to hear as its sometimes not sought or heard in the home. Having student as advocates is essential but you cannot leave that to chance hence my point above. Last – toughen up thats leadership -putting your beliefs out there takes courage and not all feedback is positive – hear it don’t have to agree or disagree – acknowledge their right to say it and then restating this is what we are doing for this reason and thats it. Did I say courage.

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    1. Thanks Mark. Especially for the reminder that not all feedback has to be positive – I need to share that with one of my teachers who has very strong beliefs about learning and creates a wonderful learning environment in her class, then personalises any negative feedback!

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  6. This is so interesting because I have run into this same parent at my school. Even after they have received many opportunities to observe and shadow to see and hear how our program works. They still enrolled their child and still said it was not going to work. What I focus on is that is does work for 98% of our learners and families. Also, we have held to our mission/vision and have not let old paradigms influence us in ways they would like to.

    It is often difficult for adults to grasp the idea of giving students a voice and it can be very uncomfortable to have really young learners question assumptions- it is just a rare thing.

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  7. Hello, I just wanted to thank you for your inspiring site. I have been following your views for a few years now and they have kept me uplifted in knowing that student centred learning is valued. I have used it myself for many years with kindy, prep and year one. I love watching the enthusiasm for learning blossom and feel proud of my self motivated learners. Unfortunately this is changing quickly as I have been teaching in Cairns in a government school where it is almost mandated now that explicit teaching be used as the only pedagogy that is allowed. It is totally teacher directed and based on an ‘I do, we do, you do’ model. Students in desks all day, repeating or chanting after the teacher etc. Asking for students thoughts on topic is considered a waste of time. Art is almost banned. I have taken leave without pay this year and am relieving. So I am able to look more deeply into alternative education systems. As I said your blogs are inspiring and a ‘breath of fresh air’ to me so thanks. Hopefully I might be able to visit your school at some time and see it in action. Keep up the great work. Jaki Pope-Sitters.

    Date: Wed, 14 May 2014 10:16:48 +0000 To: jakissite@hotmail.com

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  8. Hello Jaki
    I’m so glad you enjoy my posts. Have you considered moving to a school whose beliefs are more in keeping with yours? Are all the schools in Cairns like that? I find it very sad to hear! Sounds like you need to work in a PYP school…

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  9. Dear Edna,
    I have witnessed a very interesting moment in my current school in India. As a full IB school, when children moved on from PYP into the MYP, for years, parents wanted to have an IGCSE option in order to add ‘rigor’. When I first arrived in the school I actually wondered how can someone ask for more rigor than that which is offered in the PYP and MYP. Yet, this year, parents whose children have grown up and learned in the arms of PYP and MYP have decided to say no to IGCSE because they have understood the values, attitudes and aptitudes their children have acquired in the PYP and which have become amplified in the MYP.
    PYP teachers are architects of universes, and the way students learn to explore new understandings in the MYP is because not only does the PYP give them wings, but it also teaches them how to fly.
    Parents like the one you described are slowly disappearing in my school… What a joy.
    Always a pleasure to read you.

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  10. I’m interested to note that not for one moment do you take that parent’s concerned seriously. I wonder how you responded to her. Did you spend time reflecting that perhaps she had a tiny point, at least as concerns her child? Perhaps she is a person who complains about anything and everything, which may be a different situation. But when I have a person who complains I try to see any validity to their comment. I try to come along side them and see where we have interests or beliefs in common. As for this quote: “Blaming the school for home behaviours is an interesting approach some parents adopt!” I have two thoughts. Children bring their behaviors from home, both good and bad, effective and ineffective. Why shouldn’t the same be true? Don’t you want your students’ behavior to be effected? I’m not critical of your program – it sounds good and I have no experience of it. I was just surprised at the seemingly cavalier way this parent’s comment was treated. It seemed like a respectful comment.

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    1. Thanks for your comment. I’m not a classroom teacher and the comment wasn’t delivered in person, otherwise I’d most certainly have attended to it. It was written anonymously on a survey sent to parents. If a parent approaches my school with his/her concerns, they are always addressed appropriately.

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