|Current assessment a waste of time!|
Developing the diverse gifts and talents of many students is lost in such procedures and is not helped by the inevitable narrowing of the curriculum by teaching to the standards. The only saving grace is that, so far, we do not have standardized national tests and with them comparative league tables which have been put in place in the US, the UK and Australia.
There are a number of voices that share my concern about National Standards. Ironically introduced to ensure success for the 'one in five students failing' they themselves are failing far more students by the neglect of other areas of learning other than literacy and numeracy. Ignored in the process is the obvious fact that most of the so called failing students are to be found in low decile schools- the unintended ( one would hope) consequences of government policies that have created the inequality gap in our country.
I feel sorry for all the teachers and schools who seem to have no choice but to comply with such nonsense.
|An excellent book|
A recent book by Tony Wagner did exactly this in the United States. He was looking for common factors that such innovators shared. Firstly he found that schools were not a strong contributor to such individuals development. Most, however, were lucky enough to have had a mentor ( some, but not all, were teachers) who encouraged their area of interest. The second factor was that they enjoyed collaborative work with like minded students in their areas of interest and, finally, they had parents who gave them both encouragement to follow their interests and allowed them plenty of time to play around with their ideas - or just to play.
|Pink Floyd and school|
Creative teachers, and parents have always known this. New
Innovative adults, if the right environment is provided, gain a positive learning identity though achieving what motivates them. Success is its own reward; their risk taking mentality allows them to continually learn through enlightened trial and error.
Schools could be transformed to become similar creative environments but to do so will mean that teachers will have to change the way they teach. Teachers need to challenge such things as: the focus on literacy and numeracy ( and to 're-frame them as foundation skills'); do away with corrosive ability grouping and streaming; the obsession with narrow accountability data; and develop a relevant ( to the learners) integrated and collaborative curriculum.
One thing New Zealand Schools could well do is to dust off the 2007 New Zealand Curriculum and place it centre stage ; to develop a personalized learning environment to replace the increasingly standardized one.
I like the idea of imaging schools as multidimensional science/ creative arts/technology workshops continually creating an endless and diverse range of exhibitions, performances, demonstrations and displays as is now best seen at science , art and technology fairs. Successful exhibits at such fairs require both design and inquiry skills to be in place. In a school setting finished work could be added to each child's electronic portfolios for all to see; in the process taking care of assessment. Teachers would obviously have a creative role in such environments and would work best in diverse teams able to focus on understanding every students' strengths and talents ;educational talent scouts!
Many innovative school already do this - but they are the exceptions. There are ideas available how to transform even the most resistant of all organisations - the secondary school; schools from year 7 to 13 . As well there are no shortage of encouraging books to inspire action.
What we require are environments where students are given apprenticeships in learning that to develop powerful life long
learning habits through the activities they undertake. They would also through the encouragement they get from each other and from their transformed teachers. Human brains are programmed through evolution to absorb what is around them - for better or worse. Culture is, and always has been, the key.
Through the positive learning opportunities innovative teachers place in front of them, students learn to create a world of personal significance and appropriate learning behaviors ; simply by being part of a exciting environment. Educationalist Jerome Bruner wrote, decades ago, that, 'teaching is the canny art of intellectual temptation,' and added, 'people get good at what they get good at'. Brains are hardwired to learn through curiosity, excitement and fascination.
Culture counts; teachers need to work replace the current sterile audit culture with a truly creative one.
When students have the opportunity to develop their interests they are then in a position to pick up on what attracts their attention - what is personally relevant to them.They are, in sense, primed to learn. As one of Tony Wagner's innovators said, 'they know how to learn by themselves', or, in the words of the 2007 New Zealand Curriculum, they are able to 'seek, use and create their own knowledge.' Students in an ideal learning environment are continually
shaping their minds and amplifying their imagination. Unfortunately this enlightened view of learning is light years away from the current audit and surveillance culture which limits both teachers and students. By working with others students are able to call on the knowledge of their fellow learners. In such environments ideas become communal with learners building on the ideas of others - a default mode of learning process one hard-wired from birth but unfortunately all too easily crushed at school.
This is open ended learning - where students, as artists and scientists, discover as they go along. What students learn then informs their future choices. Who they are, and who they will
become is woven out of their learning experiences
It is obvious currently we are not developing all our students as future innovators - which was the theme of Tony Wagner's book. If we want to develop New Zealand as an innovative country then the only place to start is in our schools.
So far schools are failing in this responsibility losing wisdom in the pursuit in mere cleverness. No wonder, when their interests and views are ignored, that many students simply disengage, or worse leave wounded or alienated
As John Dewey wrote a century ago, 'education is not a preparation for life'.... 'they grow into tomorrow as they live today.' It is the culture that counts not the endless measuring of irrelevant teacher pre-determined objectives.