On the right is a typical looking class from my childhood. Maybe the desks were occasionally joined together in groups and if we were really lucky, these desk groups changed every term. This approach was considered ok when a teacher’s job was simply to pass on facts or information in an industrial model of education. If it was really important we would copy it into our books! And we were always tested by being asked to write our knowledge down!
What type of pedagogical intent is shown here? i.e desks in rows. How does that promote collaboration or even quiet reflective time or working with others? It doesn’t.
When I walk through school every day I see that children’s learning opportunities are huge and so diverse from when I was at primary school 40 years ago. If you look at that picture above, some of our classrooms look quite similar, but not for much longer. The teaching inside has changed immensely and the way the child works inside them is all about a child having a chance to be a communicator, a teacher and a learner, not just a listener.
John Edwards talks about students becoming lost in a “sea of blah”. The teacher dominates, does all the talking and shares ‘their’ knowledge with the whole class. The child being a passive and compliant learner.
However….it is no longer possible to know what knowledge people will draw on as they move through life. Students would need to constantly update their content knowledge. And we also know that students don’t learn like that (i.e listening to a teacher talk has a very low retention rate). We know that children enjoy being part of a classroom and actively doing or inquiring is a considerably more powerful way of learning because it associates a number of different aspects into the learning equation.
Alternatively students who are critical thinkers, risk-takers, creative and self-directed can learn by themselves, and therefore can learn anywhere at any time. They become interested.
Teachers were considered “Knowers of Knowledge”. But students are no longer empty vessels to be filled with endless facts and figures. I recall spending weeks and weeks learning the flags of the world and capital cities. Older students now can ask their phones and have the answer in 2 seconds if they need to know!
This is not to say that we want our learners to be ignorant and not have some base level of general knowledge. I would be disappointed if students looked at a $5 note and said “Who is that?”, but rather than just knowing that Sir Edmund Hillary conquered Everest in 1953, I would hope they would also be able to identify his enormous contribution as a NZer and the wider contribution to the world, and how they could apply some of these attributes to their own lives. Progress however indicates that our $5 note most probably won’t be in existence by the time our new entrants have left college!
The historical education system tended to focus on “just in case learning”, with lots of facts & knowledge just in case you need it. Brilliant for pub quiz but not necessarily important for the future.
Education now should be just in time, students able to access and create knowledge anywhere, anytime, anyplace.
To enable this, the role of the teacher has changed to building a learning community where we believe that everyone brings different prior knowledge to a topic and no two people learn the same thing in the same way at the same speed.