Saturday, April 15, 2006

Lets focus on developing the talents of all students.

  Posted by Picasa Can you name the individuals and the eight intelligences they represent? All the intelligences are represented in our schools but few are identified and nurtured.

We now know enough about how students learn to be able to develop the talents of all students but we have a ‘knowing and action gap’.

You would have thought breaching this gap so as to develop the talents of all students would be the number one priority of ‘our’ Ministry of Education?

Not so it seems.

I have just had a chance to take a quick look at the Ministry of Education’s current document about their new organizational plan to improve themselves. It seems, according to the Education Secretary, that the Ministry is full of passionate people but unfortunately no one seems to know of this because of the way they are organized. To make things worse their feedback says the Ministry is difficult to communicate with and that different parts act without knowing what the others are doing. Most of all, it seems, that few people know what they stand for.

To solve these dilemmas they are ‘regrouping’ with the intention of everyone being able to know what they are all doing and saying. And the focus behind this endeavor is to be able to deliver ‘evidence’ that the ‘achievement gap’, their negative vision, has been bridged.

All sounds like 'rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic' to me.

The real need in our country in the 21stC is to develop the creative capital of every young person in our education system; students need to be knowledge creators not consumers.

Without demeaning literacy and numeracy (which is how the ‘gap’ in educational achievement is measured) there ought to be a more inspirational focus for all involved in education to focus on.

What is missing in the learners included in this so called ‘achievement tail’ is a desire to learn. So called 'failing' students have lost the ‘spark’ to learn; their inborn curiosity to make sense of their experiences is dulled; the sense that they are in control of their own learning is lost. These are the real gaps!

Wouldn’t it be great if ‘our’ Ministry of Education lead the charge to develop the talents of all students and not to get bogged down in measurable literacy and numeracy targets? Such a focus is just too simplistic in such a complex interrelated world.

Rather than changing their ‘shape’ they ought to be focusing on how to create the conditions to encourage the schools to develop the talents of all their students.

Talents and creativity are ‘habits’ that can be encouraged or discouraged. You can’t ‘force feed’ creativity but you can create environments that inspire it. The Ministry needs to appreciate that students enter ‘our’ school system curious; open to ideas and a faith in their own ability to learn.

What happens to the creative and talented? Too many students begin to feel the school system is not for them and they retreat into their own minds or express their unhappiness through ‘bad’ behavior.

As students move through ‘our’ system they go from a relatively ‘student centered’ environment to an archaic fragmented subject centred secondary system. In the process they receive an ‘education’ that is the antitheses of experiences suited to the development of student engagement and creativity.

And, ironically, the Ministry’s current emphasis on ‘evidence based teaching’ and ‘measurable outcomes’ are part of the problem, creating a risk averse compliance culture that effects all levels of teaching.

Much that currently passes for education is schooling for a past industrial era and very little focuses on helping all students tap into their dreams, passions and talents. If we want to be a successful future country we need to develop in all students an identity as self motivated life long learners. Even our ‘successful’ students are too often ‘maimed’ by the process and are left to themselves to develop their real talents.

I do agree with the Secretary of Education that the current ‘status quo’ is no place to be but if we want to encourage creativity in our schools, and in turn all our students, he needs to lead the charge to ‘re-imagine ’ schools.

This means more than ‘rearranging the deck chairs’ and trying to sort out the ‘achievement gap’ it means thinking about the true purposes of education in the 21stC.

Until then too many students will leave without their talents developed.

School will have failed them. It is the school system that is dysfunctional not the learners.

Bridging the ‘gap’ between what we know about learning and the sad reality for too many students is the challenge.


Anonymous said...

We ought to moving towards a 'personalised learning'system - where the curriculum is tailored to each student's needs not vice versa.

In an age of imagination and creativity ( 'intellectual capital') it makes sense to focus on developing every bit of talent each student has. And such a focus will provide the inspiration for students to become literate and numerate.

Current schooling is too much like the 'procrustean bed' - 'one size fits all' ( with a bit of on the spot surgery!)

Bruce Hammonds said...

For the curious few who get as far as reading the comments the eight individuals and their intelligences are:

Mozart - musical 'smart'.
Gandi - intra-personal 'smart'.
Shakespeare - linguistic 'smart'.
Einstein - logical/mathematical 'smart'.
Darwin - natural history 'smart'.
Elizabeth the First - interpersonal 'smart'.
Picasso -artistic 'smart'.
W G Grace - physically 'smart'.

Of course each of us is made up of our own particular mix of intelligences.

Einstein and Shakespeare would be catered for in our current school system but only if they fitted the teacher's criteria. Somehow they might be 'too smart ' for our conservative schools?

Anonymous said...

Believing that the Education Ministry could sort itself out is a faint hope - akin to the Queen abolishing the Monarchy.

All they will do is play 'pass the jobs around' and look after their ever growing bureaucracy.

Anonymous said...

Literacy needs to be interpreted in its broadest sense - perhaps a word lke 'learnacy' needs to be invented! The desire to learn anything, and to keep learning, is required for success in any area - including reading and maths.

Bet few schools measure desire as a Ministry 'target'? Or attributes such as perserverance! It is too easy to focus on the 'mind' not the 'spine'! And the trouble with targets is the things you miss!!

Anonymous said...

Focusing on what you can measure in the 'mind' ( which is difficult unless it is simplistic) rather than the 'spine' is similar to Jerome Bruner saying it is the 'will' as well as the 'skill' that counts.

Anonymous said...

I am reminded of David Lange's quote Getting the design of Parliament changed by asking the politicians to undertake the reveiw is like asking panelbeaters to redesign intersections!!! The original secondary model in NZ was designed to educate the male elite, the rest were either to go out to manual work or into domestic service, or bliss!It was not, and still is not, designed to produce the maximum educational outcomes for all. What would the country do with all the over educated people??? They would all want the good jobs!!!. In the old days these jobs were for the rich boys from the private schools it was a very bad idea to let every person even think they should try for these jobs , especially "lower working class whites or heavens forbid Maori!!

Bruce Hammonds said...

They were the 'olden days' but we are in a new world now - except for secondary schools that is! They are OK if it were 1965 as one writer said!

We now need all the talented people we can develop - not the 'academically over-educated' as you say.