Monday, June 12, 2006

We all need interests

  Posted by Picasa It was great to read an interview with Joy Cullen, Professor of Early Years at Massey University College, in which she said:

‘I think we all need interests. We need to be encouraged to pursue our interests. We need people who are interested in us. We need faith in ourselves that we can do things. And all learners, be they gifted and talented, or children with major disabilities, need the support that helps them to have some sort of understanding of themselves as learners.’

She goes on to say she believes in people, the power of learning and that central to her learning is the ability to tackle new challenges and as a teacher to pave the way for others.

What she wants for young learners is for them to develop a love of learning and the ability to pursue their interests. As educators she wants uS to ensure that all learners can get a sense of themselves and a belief That they can learn.

Joy has previously studied ‘learned helplessness’.

Talking about her childhood she said she was encouraged to show initiative, to be reflective, and to enjoy the outdoor environment, and to have aesthetic interests. It was all about learning resiliency and self sufficiency.

To Joy, the learner is central to the learning process and the issue is about how teachers can support learning for the child and that it is important not to give up on any child.

She goes on to say that she has learnt that:

‘Everyone one can learn something at whatever level. So, you don’t give up on children. We work with children with the skills and competencies they bring, and yes, it is worthwhile to do that in itself.’

Teachers, she says:

‘They’re looking at what has captured the child’s interests…what happening here? Then they’re looking at their own strategies and what is the next step from there.’

There are two ways of looking at children’s interest. One, in which you’re really working and extending them into developing projects, and the teacher is involved in that co-constructivist style of learning. Or there is a much softer sense, if you like, of children’s interests where children are just able to choose what they do. The old fashioned free choice, self section sort of programme. That type of programme…can be very low-level play and its not extending anyone.’

In the 1960s this was called creative expression and it is still important. The sixties were:

‘A great era of creative expression in primary schools. It was at that time when Elwyn Richardson had published his book ‘In the Early World’. It was very influential particularly in the junior primary classrooms,’

‘I was a wonderful era when era for people who were interested in working with young children because there were not the same constraints in terms of what you had to fit into the curriculum. You could use large blocks of the day allowing children to explore and create’

‘I can remember going for walks up the road and picking blackberries, coming back to make Blackberry jam..not very successfully! But doing wonderful paintings about the blackberries, looking at the colours…and it was an era, the 60s, that promoted that sort of creativity'.

It is this sort of experiential learning that we need to recover in this new creative era and we need to develop personalized programmes to uncover and develop the talents of every learner. Every student needs their own curriculum – their own Individual Learning Plan.

Joy concludes her interview with:

If as educators we don’t believe that we can make a difference, why are we here?

Lots of ideas to use the environment and to develop students interests on our site.


Anonymous said...

Why have we let 'experts' make it all so complicated?

Anonymous said...

This ought to be the basic philosophy of all education. As Jerome Bruner said, many years ago, 'we get good at what we are good at!.

Amber-Lee said...

Just a quick thought....
Our schoolwide theme next term is "being an ingenious genius" and is all about taking the childrens interests and natural abilities that next step into exploring career options and expectations.
Joy's first quote....."I think we all need interests. We need to be encouraged to pursue our interests." I think that often poor currriculum choices / planning gets in the way of teaching children REAL stuff that builds on their passions. The next step is to ensure there is a practical implication in what we teach chidren. It's not just learning for learnings sake, it has to be about equipping children for life beyond primary, secondary, tertiary education.
Learning for life using life to learn!

Bruce said...

Greetings Amber-lee - cold down there?

The future requires teachers to tap into the passions, talents and dreams of all students, so your theme is great.

I think we ought to start with kids questions and then deepen them, through dialogue and challenge, into deeper inquiries. These easliy align to the big themes of being human ( or the strands of the current Learning Areas)

This would create an 'emergent' curriculum that links to chidrens real concerns and interests and, in turn, would validate their sense of 'voice' and agency.

If we don't do this students will dis-engage - sooner or later!

What's the bet that 'personalised learning' will become the key words for the decades to come!

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...