Monday, October 16, 2006

To see multiple perspectives in any experience

  Posted by Picasa We all learn through experience but all too often we are not equipped to see all we can see. Many students have lost their natural openness to experience through all their senses and their natural sense of wonder that served them so well before they entered formal schooling.

At home they ask more questions about serious topics (to them) and are involved in far deeper conversation with adults than they will experience at school. At school their concerns are replaced by teacher planned activities and all too often reduced to literacy and numeracy understandings.

This is a shame for students, as well as teachers, as natural sources of motivation to tap are ignored as is the scope of means of expressing ideas. In the process the sensory nature of learning is diminished and real life concerns are all but ignored.

All ways of expression are equally valid – dance, drama, poetry, art, music, and mathematics but at school ‘success’ will be determined by scores on numeracy and literacy tests. It is as if all intelligence is to be limited to verbal and mathematical reasoning. Measurable achievement is valued over inquiry and love of learning! Today over half the school time is dedicated to literacy and numeracy. No wonder large segments of the school population fail to engage!

We need to go back to educating children’s senses and environmental awareness as this is the source of all art and science – and words and ideas. Each sense, and way of expressing what is seen, provides a greater variety of ‘nets to cast’ to capture meaning, and each net catches different fish! Each student needs to be helped to weave their own nets

If the only game in town is poker and there are some very good chess players then the chess players are culturaly handicapped! If all meaning could be adequately expressed with words and number there would be no need for music and art.

What we need is an education concerned with developing every individual’s ability to secure meaning through diverse means. All means of expression have their own literacys. We want students to grapple with questions related to their own personally felt experiences because this challenge will be part of their future success.

This means we need to value creative expression, particularly the creative arts, and to see them as valid ( or basic) as literacy and numeracy. This wolud value a wider conception of the mind and particularly value feelings and imagination in learning.

Just imagine visiting a bridge (or tree, or anything). It can be seen through the eyes of a scientist, an artist, a historian, an engineer or mathematician, a poet, a painter – each form of experiencing involves different ways of dealing with the task. Each will call on the appropriate subject disciplines nad require specific skills. Learning would not have to be integrated – it already is.

All sensory information and means of expression helps students uncover talents they might not be aware of. As well, while ideas are expressed using any expressive form, new question and challenges arise. And students learn not everything can be expressed through anything.

It is important that we help our students develop multiple perspectives as our definition of curriculum shapes the consciousness of our students. The gains we may currently be making in literacy and numeracy might not be worth the price our students have to pay.

All too often we limit our students’ perception and imagination by our limited views.

Teaching itself is an artistic and imaginative experience and not as simplistic as those who wish us to measure narrow achievement would have us believe


Anonymous said...

I like the metaphor of each learner having their own set of nets to 'catch' different meanings from any experience.

Literacy and numeracy miss so much that is available to 'catch'.

Anonymous said...

It would seem to me that literacy and numeracy are almost the only subjects that 'count' - taking up all the 'prime time' in schools. The other areas are present but it is a very thin offering!

They seem to be the only things that feature in school annual targets - all to often such a narrow focus means other ways of making meaning are lost.

As you say if the only game in town is poker....