Thursday, June 09, 2005

Thinking to make personal meaning.

Study topics in depth - quality thinking! Posted by Hello

This week I had the experience of taking a number of Otago and Southland rural principals to visit a few schools in our area to show them in reality what I had previously talked about when I worked with them last year.

I believe strongly that teachers see and feel their way into new ideas rather than have them delivered in a package. Emotional attachment is what counts, not just intellectual understanding, if changes are to stick. Visiting other classrooms, with a particular purpose in mind, and with an interpretive guide, is possibly the most valuable way to learn new ideas.

Seeing is believing. And what the teachers saw both confirmed the ideas they were all implementing about the need to make leaning intentions/goals explicit, and using feedback with their students. Common practice these days but in my opinion no guarantee of quality results. What I really wanted them to see was the result of teachers deliberately ‘doing fewer things well’ which seems counter intuitive to the current rush they all seemed tied into – cover this , plan that, assess everything, report on targets, focus on literacy and numeracy…..everything is so intensified and hyper rational

The simple idea to ‘slow the pace of work’ so as to allow the teacher to come along side the learner to provide appropriate assistance and, in turn, for students to have the time to complete work of personal pride is a valuable one. And equally important is the need for the quality research and expression that results from such focused teaching to be displayed with appropriate design skills; both to inform viewers and to celebrate student creativity. The total room environment, from the teachers’ blackboard/whiteboard programmes, to the students’ book work and the final products on the wall, all contribute to the ‘message system’ and values of the teacher and preferably the whole school.

After leaving the province the visiting teachers were all off to attend a rural teacher’s course. Out of interest they showed me the programme. It reflected the latest ‘bandwagon’ – lots of sessions on higher order thinking skills. Nothing wrong with this – who could argue about teaching thinking, but what was missing, was an emphasis on thinking for what?

Thinking is a process but it must be driven by curiosity – a desire to know – and this is what any thinking process should be tied too. If real content is not the number one reason for teaching thinking then it could result in ‘higher order thinking for thin learning’. If this happens I expect to see classrooms walls covered with de Bonos’ hats, Costa’s lists, Gardner’s Intelligences, Bloom's taxonomies, endless graphic organizers, inquiry- action planning models etc but no place for real creative thinking based on real question based on real studies.

If however all the emphasis on thinking was focused on students digging deeply into a rich study that appeals their curiosity and their need to know then I would have no complaints. If not, once again, process has replaced substance – the story of Tomorrows Schools.

Idea to help develop quality work through ‘slowing the pace’ is available on our site.


Anonymous said...

Sharing ideas between schools was common practice before 'Tomorrows Schools'. At this point schools became obsessed with complying with the endless and ever changing requirements imposed by the Ministry.On top of this they worried if what they were doing would comply when reviewed by ERO. To complete the destruction, of sharing each others wisdom, was the myth that schools should compete with each other.

If schools are starting to visit each other to share ideas and acknowledge each others expertise then things must be getting better!

All schools have to do now is to get off the treadmill and begin to really think about what they believe in and start to trust in and share their own wisdom. No one in the Ministry has ever had put into practice their own advice; the leadership of fellow teachers is all there ever was.

And you are right - education is about tapping into the source of each learners internal motivation -if thinking skills help well and good.

Anonymous said...

A good idea would be to get rid of all the contracted non experts 'delivering' imposed ideas and instead use their money to set up ways for schools to visit each other and share their own expertise. At least this knowledge will be based on reality and not hot air and wishful thinking. Teachers need to claim back the professionalism that has been stolen from them.

Anonymous said...

Finally learning is about what kids can do or demonstrate - not what is on some graph somewhere!
If we lose this focus we can think that the process is more important than the substance - rather than a very important means to an end!