Thursday, August 18, 2005
From compliance to creativity!
'Top down' planning!
‘Things, they are a changing’, and fast!
The techno logical curriculums of the early 90s are now being seen for what they are, hallucinations of experts working away in their ivory towers. They are finally crumbling and coming to an end.
Anyway, all they ever were was a rehash of the earlier failed behavioral objectives of the last century, repackaged as part of an accountability movement, brought in on the back of the now equally struggling market forces ideology. Efficiency, testing and measurement were, it seemed, all that was to be needed to ensure all students achieved like good little educational consumers. And of course competition.
It was as if some updated Victorian white Anglo God had said, ‘I know, I have a good idea. In the beginning, before Tomorrows Schools, there was only woolly thinking, so let’s divide the world into seven Learning Areas, each with four Strands, nine Levels, and countless trivial Learning Objectives, and give them to the teachers. And then we’ll send down auditors (ERO) to see it will be done! And all will be well.’
And anyway, said the economists, the ‘experts’ and their 'castrati', there is no alternative (TINA). Those who warned schools of the dangers ahead were, as heretics, were sent into the wilderness. Some started e-zines to keep the lost ideas alive! And anyway, schools were too busy conforming, complying and competing, to even notice the dangers, and ‘delivered’ the curriculum and checked off all the objectives. But all was not well.
Of course, as it was an impossible task, all felt inadequate, but teachers kept this to them selves, preferring to pretend that the Emperor has a full set of curriculum clothes. Some schools, to save themselves, took on board tracking sheets ( a totally pointless task) for teachers to tick of objectives covered, and again, for a while, all was well.
As those in the Ivory Towers heard the cries of pain they quickly modified the curriculum ( following, as usual, a similar idea from overseas) and ‘revised’ the curriculum requirements, placing greater emphasis on Literacy and Numeracy and said, ‘have fun with the rest’. This too, seemed a good idea at the time, but lots of creative areas were ‘gobbled up by the evil twins of literacy and numeracy’. And anyway, there were now ‘targets’ to aim for; as usual another idea copied from overseas.
This, however, was only a temporary cure so the curriculums were taken away to be ‘stock- taked’. And then, all of a sudden, it was discovered by the ‘wise ones’ in their Research Towers that it was actually the teacher’s skill that was the real factor in student achievement, and not the curriculums. In the distance the heretics celebrated.
Such heretics voices had become more acceptable. They had amused teachers with tales, saying such things as: ‘the curriculums were stuffed, in both senses of the word’; that they were ‘obese and full of unhealthy fat’; some said, ‘it was death by strands’; while other called it ‘the KFC curriculum – can I have one strand, two level and some objectives to take away please!’
These tales began to spread and those in the Ivory Towers said, ‘forget the objectives just cover the big ideas’. And an idea, from the olden days, ‘learning how to learn’, was repackaged and delivered as ‘key competencies’ to show how wise they still were. There was even talk of ‘collapsing the curriculum’, which was a bit late, as it had virtually disappeared in creative schools anyway.
And, sadly, some teachers were heard to be thanking the 'wise ones' for saving them from the same 'wise ones' earlier advice; such is the power of a compliance mindset.
But a few realized that they had been fooled and began to appreciate the words of the heretics such as: ‘do fewer things well’; 'value students voices’; ‘forget achievement, go for love of learning’; ‘quality rather than quantity’; 'personalize learning'; ‘integrate learning’; ‘work along side the child to co-create knowledge’; ‘uncover and amplify student talents’; and ‘judge success of students by what they can do or demonstrate’. And, they remembered, they already knew of this wisdom, for it was once their own, and they began to caste out the endless clear folders they thought would save them, and began to focus on teaching and learning again. And they felt happy at last.
A new agenda began to develop, starting from individual creative teachers, and spreading contagiously as if a benign virus. Out went the, ‘top down’ linear thinking; the endless ticking that had bedeviled them; the obsession with evidence based and data driven teaching, so loved by the technocrats with time on their hands; slowly out went the low trust audit culture of dependency; and the ideas spread. For they were good.
New ideas are now in the air and, where they fall on fertile ground, they grow, change and spread. All they need are the right conditions – courage and leadership.
As now, as we now leave the cold ‘information age’ (all the knowledge workers live in India!), we enter a new exciting era. A new vision of creativity and imagination is ahead of us. There are new worlds to be explored by those happy to leave the tracks formed by old habits. There are new words to inspire future educators like: 'passion and love of learning'; about 'the need to help learners see patterns and connections, to integrate learning'; about 'the power of trust and relationships'; about 'deep learning and mindfulness'; about 'valuing aesthetics, design and artistry in all things'; about 'caring for the heart and spirit of people'; about 'compassion and empathy'; about 'learning through story and metaphor'; and most of all 'about joyfulness, play, and laughter'.
It is no longer to be all about measurable achievement; it is to be about what it is to be fully human. And it is good.
And when it happens all will be well in the world again.