Thursday, December 02, 2004

Five principles for learning - worth thinking about?

Victoria (Australia) has introduced five principles for all schools to follow in preparation for a new curriculum as yet to be released. All schools, it is stated, would have to decide how to apply them.

They are hardly remarkable, or new, but they do seem fundamental and if acted upon would have a powerful effect on teaching and learning.

They are as follows:

1. Learning for all. All students can learn, given sufficient time and support.
2. Pursuit of excellence. Seeking to accomplish something noteworthy and admirable and performing at ones best.
3. Engagement and effort. Acknowledging that student ability is only one factor in achievement, if students work hard, and make an effort, they improve.
4. Respect for evidence. Seeking understanding and truth through structured inquiry and the application of evidence to test and question belief.
5. Openness of mind. Being willing to consider a range of different views.

I guess the principles are less problematic than defining a set of values but they do underpin the values of a democratic society. If they were all put into practice they would certainly challenge the current educational provisions that are more suited to an ‘industrial age’ environment than a ‘knowledge era’. By personalizing learning, as it would seem the above require, true twenty first century schools would evolve

A few comments on the principles.

If learning for all were taken seriously then everything needs to be done, including re –inventing current school structures and programmes, to ensure all students leave with the joy of learning intact. This is obviously not the case at present. Many schools try to cover too much material and many students are not taught appropriate learning strategies.

• Do all students leave any one class, or school with an enthusiasm for learning?

Pursuit of excellence would mean doing fewer things well and, for this to happen, the learning most be relevant and meaningful to the learner. This would require schools to focus on each learner’s particular learning needs and talents so as to motivate students to achieve their personal best.

• Can every school demonstrate for every student examples of excellence?

Engagement depends on relevance and a sense of personal control by the learner. Twenty first century schools need value their student's questions, views and current level of understandings and then to challenge them. Too many schools still see their role as one of transmission and testing of knowledge. Ability is an important factor but all students do need to learn to equally value effort, perseverance and practice. If the tasks are felt worthwhile by students they are more willing to put in the effort necessary.

• Are all students engaged and keen to continue learning?

Respect for evidence through structured inquiry would require schools to introduce all learning tasks as problem solving situations. Teachers would need to encourage students to consider possible actions, research the best option, reflect on the findings and, if necessary, continuing a new line of research. Learning ‘how to learn’ would need to be seen as important as the product and would contribute to developing the attributes required to ensure all students become life long learners.

• Are all students able articulate how they learn? Do teachers introduce learning as realistic open ended learning challenges?

Openness of mind. Students need to learn that there are often a range of views in any learning experience and that other views, and cultural beliefs, need to be considered and respected. In many situations there is often no obvious answer and students need to resist the temptation of imposing a ‘right answer’. This openess of mind is vital in a global world

• Are students open to new experiences and willing to consider other points of view?

I believe the principles would an ideal set for any school to implement. They have much in common with the five points of our Teaching Framework to be seen on our site ( ) which have been modified by many schools in NZ

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

From what I gather there is some pretty interesting stuff going on in Australia - we are making use of the 'Rich Topic's' ideas from Queensland at our school.