Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Whose learning is it?

  Posted by Picasa Recently I added a blog about 'what we steal from children' based on thoughts by Australian educator John Edwards. In his article he wrote that research says that for year 10 students in Australia that 75% of all tasks across the curriculum allowed students no choice in any aspects of the task.

He went on to say that UK research (Tizard and Hughes 86)showed that at home students discussed a range of interesting topics and had fruitful discussions about these things with their mothers. They puzzled over all sorts of things in their innate desire to make sense of their world. In contrast at school researchers were disappointed. Although students were happy the richness, depth, variety and intellectual struggle which characterized the home conversations were sadly missing. The questioning puzzling child was gone and their role was now largely answering questions not asking them.

Gordon Wells in his book, ‘The Meaning Makers’ (86), makes similar points reporting that at school utterances by a child to an adult were 63% less than at home and conversation initiated by students dropped 64% and questions by 70%.

The ownership of learning is vital if children are to develop learning identities.

Without meaning to many teachers not only diminish their student’s authentic sense of self but miss out in inspiration to develop engaging personalized programmes. As DH Lawrence wrote, ‘you have to know yourself to be yourself’. At school students learn to fit into a world designed by teachers and not all students will thrive in such an artificial environment.

This theme is expanded in a book by Elley and Smith (2000) on students writing. The authors say students from an early age expect others to make sense of their 'marks' but again, at school, these early attempts are often ignored in a desire to ensure reading is in place. At home students write about all sorts of things but at school it was found that they express fewer ideas and use less complex language. And they also found that genuine questions are replaced by ‘guess what I am thinking’ questions asked by teachers. As Heenan (86) says, ‘Children are soon conditioned to play it safe, sacrificing spontaneity, freshness and independence for correctness, teacher approval and dependency.’

All learning is about power – learning power, writing power- all in the need to make sense of life.

Classrooms ought to reflect the ‘voice’, the questions, the ideas, the theories, and the artistic expression of the students themselves not just teachers ‘curriculum’. This was, and still is, central to the philosophy of creative teachers.

Teachers ought to place at the centre of all they do that the students need to be in control of their own ‘meaning making’. Meaning making, in any learning task, is the students number one priority.


Anonymous said...

The issue of 'voice' and identity is at the heart of all learning.

And if student's can't get to exercise choice at school how will they survive in an ever changing world?

Teachers should stop teaching and start listening and everyone can begin really learning!

Anonymous said...

Teachers ought to consider whose learning is it!

Anonymous said...

Personalised learning, the Ministers new 'buzz' words, might not be the same thing as personalising learning?

You are talking about personalising learning - one based on students' dreams, passions, concerns and talents, not personalizing adult curriculums?

Anonymous said...

By your definition of learning little of it happens in schools - no wonder home schooling is a growth industry!