What educators need to unlearn…

Looking at the curriculum (program of inquiry) and the timetable through the courageous lens of ‘what if’, has allowed us to explore possibilities that sit outside of traditional models. The more we let go of the way things have always been, the more opportunities manifest for learning to flow and learners to flourish.

I once wrote a post about things that teachers should unlearn. We’ve come a long way since then! Here are some more things educators need to unlearn:

Learning is linear.

Why should we only do one unit at a time? Real life isn’t broken down into blocks of curriculum, learning is not linear and inquiry is not a step by step process. Inquiries (and learning!) overlap and interweave. We need to create the conditions in which this kind of learning can thrive.

Adults make the decisions.

In the past few weeks, we have consulted with students on matters such as a new initiative for Year 3, the design of the learning spaces, our PYP self study and a whole school unit of inquiry. Their perspectives are insightful, valuable and practical!

You need to deliver the curriculum.

The best way to cover the curriculum is to design rich and authentic, real life, learning experiences, and then back map to the curriculum. Everything worthwhile will be covered!

We are bound by the timetable.

Next year, our Art, like some other specialist areas, will be more authentically integrated into the learning. Less timetabled, more of an effective mode of communication, ‘through which students explore and construct a sense of self and develop an understanding of the world around them’ (PYP). Looking forward to seeing how it unfolds…

Planning takes place in advance.

It’s true that you need to have a sense of the big idea and where the learning needs to go conceptually, but planning responsively has changed things entirely. It’s becoming natural to observe, listen and document what is revealed about where learners and learning are at, then analyse the data to decide where to go next.

There is secret teacher business.

The more learners are aware of things that used to be kept from them, the more ownership they take in their learning. Learners can (and should!) . explore  curriculum outcomes, create success criteria, know what their goals are. Why shouldn’t they write their own reports?

Anything to add?

Empowering our learners…

One of the most exciting things we saw during our recent visit to ISHMC (International School of Ho Chi Minh City, where Sam Sherratt is based) was the unstructured inquiry set up in a Grade 4 class by Adrian Watts, the principal.

Learners were given a choice between four different explorations (although they didn’t know the precise task until after they had selected what seemed interesting to them):

  • Reassemble a computer so that it works.
  • Fix the motor on a scooter.
  • Knit a finger puppet.
  • Sew a pair of trousers that fits someone in your group.

Participants were permitted just three questions over the course of the day. It was interesting to observe the thoughtful way they approached this, writing down possible questions and carefully considering what and whom they would ask.

It was more difficult for the observing adults to adhere to the rules. Most found it hard to overcome their natural inclination to step in and help, instead of stand back and observe the learning (and the range of trans disciplinary skills in action).

What did we observe during this exercise in child driven learning?

  • learner agency and empowerment.
  • total engagement in meaningful learning experiences.
  • curiosity and willingness to experiment.
  • competence, creativity and problem solving.
  • resourcefulness and fearlessness in approaching the unknown.
  • interesting group dynamics and differing gender biases within groups.
  • risk taking, learning from failure, persistence and resilience… in varying degrees.
  • collaborative decision making.
  • and more…

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The transferable messages…

We need to believe that children are capable, curious, competent and creative and, given the opportunities and encouragement, can lead their own learning.

We need to rethink contexts where the teacher controls the learning and the students jump through hoops set in front of them by the teacher, the school or the system.

We need to stop ‘doing school’ and think about what it means to really learn, because real learning often has very little to do with traditional notions of school.

From ‘doing school’ to learning 2day…

I’ve just had my first experience of a #Learning2 conference and loved the opportunities to…

  • engage with big ideas.
  • be challenged and have my thinking pushed.
  • be inspired by the messages of passionate, thoughtful educators.
  • present my ideas to others.
  • learn with and from educators of diverse ages, experiences, backgrounds and roles.
  • connect with people who share my interests and people willing to share theirs.
  • identify problems and develop ideas to overcome them.
  • listen, talk, share, think, question… and dream.
  • tailor the learning experience to to suit my needs!

The ‘Disrupt Strand’ was a different kind of experience, not least for the opportunity to work with facilitators Sam Sherratt and Rebekah Madrid and other educators who care deeply about learning and the state of education. Other people who, as the descriptor on the website states:

  • prefer learning in an inquiry-based, unstructured environment.
  • are comfortable with the unknown and enjoy working in teams.
  • are happiest when learning is messy.
  • are often the ‘early adopters’, the ‘lone nut’ or the innovators at their school.

It was a personalised learning experience, in which the participants had the opportunity to work in teams to develop something we would like to implement over the next school year.

My team (which had representation from Australia, Singapore and China… as well as South Africa, India and New Zealand, if you count where people are from, not just where they work!) grappled with ideas for shifting from ‘doing school’ to the way we think learning should look today. We refined our ideas after chatting with a couple of grade 5 students from ISM, who shared their perceptions of school, what’s important to them and how it could be better. 

The problem: How can we break the restrictive moulds which limit the learning in our schools? (Single subject silos, rigid timetables, confined classrooms, grouping by age) and work towards a more flexible model that allows for more personalisation, choice and ownership? 

Our pitch: What if school was like #Learning2?

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Pitching to the judges
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Pitching to the whole conference
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The team

Can we (that includes you) introduce one LEARNING2 day at a time, until eventually it becomes LEARNING TODAY? 

Watch this space if you want to join us!