Thursday, June 14, 2007

Transforming secondary schools.

If you are riding a dead horse the best advice is to get off and try something new.

The number of reports published worldwide about transforming High Schools would fill a library on their own but for all the fine words little has changed.

But if a country is to develop citizens to meet the needs of 21stC we just have to move away from the norms that governed factory era schools.

The most persistent norm that stand in the way is isolated teaching in stand alone classrooms. The 21stC schools will need to transform themselves into learning communities where teachers learn to share their expertise.

Teachers would then be able to transform their personal knowledge into a collectively built cohesive professional knowledge base.

This doesn't seem to much to ask but it is rarely found.

It is not an impossible dream and those schools that have achieved such things are far better places to learn and teach in - and for new teachers to be inducted into.

When teachers work collegially they are able to share their expertise, have candid conversations about whatever concerns them, and to reflect on actions they have jointly taken.

Unfortunately it is the students who suffer most when left with an isolated struggling teacher; teachers who are all to often loath to admit their failings to others. Such school cultures are negative learning places but they still are the norm.

Quality learning and teaching should be the number one focus of the school leader(s) and be the responsibility of the entire school community. Fostering such a supportive environment help new, or struggling teachers, encourages good teachers to become great teachers and, most of all, creates a quality learning environment for students.

When teachers work in teams with students, undertaking action, or research based learning, on often interdisciplinary projects, everybody wins.

Wouldn't it be great to envision a school culture in which experienced and beginning teachers worked together on mentoring student inquiries as well as as sharing inquiry into effective practices.It is this sort of teamwork that the real world expects of future workers. The best place to learn such 'competencies is at school.

The trouble is that too many parents and teachers find it hard to move away from the factory model schools with their genesis in the last century. All too often teachers in such schools never see another person teach - this privatisation of practice is holding schools and students to ransom. Teachers all to often left on their own, unable to learn from their more experienced associates.

It is over to teachers and schools to do the learning - isn't that what schools are for?


Anonymous said...

It is ironic that school have not become 'learning communities' - if they were they would have evolved into a diversity of sizes and shapes some of which would lead the way into the future. Secondary school remain locked in their monolithic dinosaur like environments unable to evolve to meet the challenges of a new world.

Anonymous said...

Transforming high schools - an oxymoron surely?

Bruce said...

Secondary schools are the most resistant of our public organisations to change - even if they wanted to. Which they don't.

It is strange to consider while the 'middle class' rush to buy the latest fashion statement, car, or technology equipment they prefer to send their children to schools locked in the mid 20th Century at best.

It is not only traditonal education they want it is the 'social capital' that attracts them.