Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Before the word the experience

 Sensory awareness - the missing basicPosted by Picasa

Common threads run though my blogs about teaching and learning.

One is that teachers ought to be focusing on developing all their students as open curious learners with the attitudes and skills to follow up areas of personal interest to them.

This is in contrast to ‘delivering’ a curriculum to students because experts somewhere have decided it is good for them. I believe if teachers tapped into students’ interests and areas of concern ‘personalized’ curriculums could be ‘designed’ that would be more valuable to the learner. And when teachers ‘uncover’ areas of interest teachers and students can work together to ‘co-construct’ knowledge that is personally relevant to the students. In this way an in depth challenging curriculum ‘emerges’.

Such in depth studies would be a contrast to the superficial studies all to often seen. This superficiality is, all to often, the result of teacher time and energy ( and assessment requirements) being taken up by imposed literacy and numeracy requirements.

When ‘fertile’ questions are chosen to explore they should be studied in depth to allow students to internalize an inquiry approach and to see connections between other areas of learning.Students ought to be encouraged to express their ideas in variety of ways. Whatever is studied, or expressed, ought to push students to the limits of their understanding and perception.

Classrooms ought to reflect the results of students’ curiosity and expression; in my experience this is not the case; they all to often reflect the teachers curriculum.

Extending this idea teachers should tap into the personal life experiences of their students as the basis for oral language and personal writing and for this, in turn, to become the basis of literacy development.

Teachers need to appreciate that ‘before the word comes the experience’ and that the first books children experience ought to record and celebrate children’s own ideas and thoughts. If this were done they would come to see books an extension of the same process; work of other authors. The valuing of students life experiences develop in students minds that teachers really care for them as individuals. The valuing of students ‘voice’, or identity, is the means to develop positive learning relationships based on mutual trust and respect.

An area largely neglected in school these days, and closely related to their curiosity, is even more basic; helping students to retain their sensual curiosity about the natural world. From such sensory experiences questions for studies and ideas language and creative expression evolve.

Learning to appreciate the subtle changes and the small scale environmental changes provides the source for both scientific exploration and artistic expression. All the senses need ‘educating’ and this process will develop a powerful vocabulary and ideas for students to make use of. With the senses fully ‘educated’ a learning curriculum becomes available as students learn to notice and wonder about all they see. Motivation would not be a problem.

The challenges students face up to, in researching their own questions, developing their sense of ‘voice and identity, and developing a life long awareness of their environment through their senses and imagination, have been the basic challenges of humankind since the beginning of history.

The need to make personal meaning and to express thoughts goes back as far as cave drawings, dance, music and story telling. Learning and expressing ideas are what makes us human.

By imposing: our curriculums, ignoring their voice, cutting literacy off from student’s reality, allowing superficial thinking, and by assessing students how well they do on what others feel is relevant, may well be the reason why so many learners 'disengage' from the school learning process.

What teachers ‘deliver' simply makes little sense to many students.

Education ought to be about retaining that love of learning which the basis of a fulfilled life.

It is this passion to keep learning alive that is being lost in our industrial age school system.

The answers seem obvious. Change the schools to allow natural learning to thrive.


Anonymous said...

The important ideas you express seem to have been forgotten by todays teachers? Why is this?

And then you have to wonder why so many students become turned off learning?

The world of the student is under-utilized - who am I? what am I good at? and where am I going? are the three big questions that together make an ideal curriculum.

Anonymous said...

An 'emergent' curriculum - sounds like education mirroring life!

What a sensible idea but will it catch on?

Bruce said...

An 'emergent' curriculum will never catch on while 'teachers' ( or their 'expert' advisers) think they know best. Just shows a lack of trust in kids (and teachers); but when we leave school it is what we all use!