Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Education now

I'm half way through my first education subject, and everything is making sense. I can see how much education policy and practice has changed since I was at school.

The aim is to engage children as much as possible, and to cater for all types of learners. Appealing to all children is also a strategy to avoid disruptive behaviour. Teachers are expected to know each child well, to respect their individuality, take their backgrounds into account, and tailor a learning program whereby every child can have their needs met.

We know that people learn more by doing than by being told, so the idea is to have children actively engaged in their lessons. This means, in reality, lots of small group work, or co-operative learning. So, lots of talking with each other, as well as the teacher. Not a lot of the teacher standing out the front of the class addressing the students, and forget about the expectation that the classroom will mostly be a quiet place.

It also means children can contract their work, that is, they can choose between options, so they can write a song about the topic or make a map or explore and present the subject in a way which is meaningful to them. People learn by constructing their own meanings. Teachers plan for breadth (a means of learning that meets individual needs and interests) and for depth (offering tasks of higher order thinking for those who already grasp the facts and understand). This is what the Principal means when she allays parental fear about composite classes - all children are catered for anyway.

Socialisation is also a big component. Our society needs people who can get along with other people. If schools fail to socialise students then they are failing to equip students with skills for living.

Transparency is another component. Children know the consequences, what is expected of them, agree on the rules, know what is assessable, and the teaching program used by the teacher is known to the students.

All quite different from when I was a school student! For a teacher it means a lot of work, a lot of creativity and, hopefully, more satisfaction. From what I've seen so far, teachers are very generous with their ideas and are happy to help each other. Something to be grateful for.

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