Monday, November 29, 2004

Schools working collaboratively, the new trend!

The ideology underpinning the educational changes of the last decades has encouraged ‘stand alone’ competitive schools busy ‘proving how good they are!’

In a ‘knowledge age’ (where knowledge is the new capital) this is counterproductive for both the professional development of teachers and students. As well, this isolationism (or ‘me first’ schools), is creating problems for many students as they transfer between schools. The number of student’s not ‘surviving’ school transitions, particularly between year 8 and 9, is now a Ministry priority.

What is required to solve this disconnectedness is for schools and teachers to become involved in a professional dialogue so they can come to some agreement of what is meant by quality teaching and learning. And from dialogue to develop some form of pedagogical framework that can unify teaching between all schools

Today, not only is there little collaboration between schools at the same level, but there is a pedagogical difference in teaching beliefs between the primary and secondary levels. What is needed is to develop beliefs that can integrate teaching across this divide, beliefs that combine the best of child centred primary with the more teacher, subject centred, secondary approach.

This ‘more informed vision’ underpins the philosophy of our website . Such a ‘learning centred’ philosophy is based around providing personalized learning to all students by: engaging students in real life experiences, valuing students questions and prior ideas, challenging students to construct their own knowledge, teaching ‘how to learn’ strategies and integrating learning areas, a need for personal effort, doing fewer thing well, and the importance of rigor, effort, practice and discipline. Naturally there would also have to be an agreement of what ‘foundation skills’ would need to be in place at each point of transfer.

There are lessons to be learnt in this mix for both primary and secondary teachers.

At the secondary level it would mean teachers working in teams with groups of students in some form of thematic integrated studies.

At the primary level, ensuring foundation skills were in place, identifying student’s talents and guaranteeing a positive attitude towards learning

Learners, their parents and their teacher(s) all need to be involved in negotiating individual student educational learning plans and teacher’s, and students need to be held accountable for what they agree to undertake. Each student needs to build up his or her own learning portfolio.

An agreed teaching framework, while developing consistency, must also encourage individual, school, teacher and student creativity.

The framework must be built on the belief that all students can learn given the appropriate help, task and time. All students should leave, whatever level of school, with their talents developed and their joy of learning intact. To implement such beliefs will require an understanding by schools of what attributes both a powerful learner and teacher must have. To succeed many schools and teachers will have to change the way they teach, and all teachers be given the opportunities to expand their teaching repertoire.

There is nothing radical in the above suggestions but if implemented would not only solve the problematic transition concerns but also have the power to transform schools into true learning and sharing organizations. The personalized approach would also assist those students who currently leave with little to show for their schooling.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The trouble is that since self managing schools were 'introduced' schools have become too competitive and now they run like self contained monarchies - and some principals are not big enough to ask for help or to share. Some schools are paying the price for this isolationism