Wednesday, September 26, 2007

My revised vision and beliefs

Our Leading and Learning Logo stands for combining the best of 'child centred' and 'traditional' teaching - learning centred eduction; the 'best of both worlds' - combining the creativity of primary education and the depth and rigor of secondary teaching.

Over the years I have assisted a great number of schools develop their Vision, Values and Teaching Beliefs. The process I use follows a similar format - first to establish a Vision with all involved ( and usually finding a key phrase or metaphor to represent this Vision); then to determine the Values they hold to be important ( once again finding a memorable phrase to make them memorable) ; and then to develop a set of Teaching Beliefs to implement the agreed Vision and Values.

I guess the 'normal' set of teaching beliefs are easily modified by any school to suit their particular context.This is because they include the ideas that most schools are implementing. The key to the process I use is to limit the number of points to five or six so they can be easily articulated.

My 'ideal' set reflects my personal 'point of view', or 'stance', about what is required to ensure all students gain success in 'our' education system. It also reflects the current personalised learning agenda.

I believe that society is at a 'tipping point' as the structures developed in an Industrial Age are increasingly failing their original function. This is understandable. It would be common sense to understand that such a system, with its genesis in the past, would find it difficult to cope in what some call a new Creative Age; one requiring flexibility rather than a 'one size fits all' mentality.

The big issue is what kind of society do we want new Zealand to become? This is all the more important as we emerge out of a market forces 'me first' society. Certainly our students need new competencies than those envisioned for an past industrial age.

Human skills of creativity and innovation will be required
if, as a country, we are to be at the 'leading edge' in a 'brave new world'? If this is the case, then education will have to be transformed from a 'factory' metaphor to one better suited to the times.

If schools were to focus on developing all the gifts and talents of all their students, imagine what this challenge would mean. It would require new roles for students as 'seekers, users and creators ' of their own knowledge and, for teachers, to become 'learning advisers' skilled in assisting each student develop personalised learning plan.

So my Vision would be, for 'my' school, would be, 'To value, celebrate and develop the talents of all students'.

Students, in such a school, would need to develop the Values to enable them, 'To learn to work with and respect others, and, in the process, learn to make the 'best choices' they can and, always, to consider 'next time'

1 To respect and build on students talents and gifts and to provide opportunities for new interests to develop.

2 To develop every students' 'learning power' to enable them to take advantage of any new experience.

3 To provide students with a range of challenging learning experiences to develop both 'learning power' and to uncover potential talents.

4 To see teachers 'learning advisers' able to provide personalized assistance to all students.

5 To create stimulating learning environment to celebrate student thinking and creativity.

Each of the above would need a list of agreed specific 'We wills' to give direction to parents and teachers.

Focusing on each students particular mix of talents, and building on their life experiences would realise the dream of personalised learning.

Powerful learners would need to have the basic 'foundation skills' of literacy and numeracy in place but would require, what one writer calls, 'learnacy' - the desire to learn. Powerful learners 'need to know, ,what to do when they do not know what to do'. Powerful learner also understand that the learning ( or creative ) process involves confronting difficulty and confusion and requires , resilience,perseverance and personal effort.

Powerful learning experiences need to be, 'rich, relevant and rigorous' Students , to be engaged have to see meaning in what they do and to make use of whatever traditional subject disciplines as required. Seeing 'connections' between traditional subjects needs to be encouraged. Students need to do 'fewer things well' so as to study chosen topics in depth. Much of the learning would 'emerge' around problems and questions identified by the students themselves and, where possible, relate to to their environment and the cultural heritage of New Zealand.

The teachers role is vital to achieve such a talent based vision. The priority would be to accept unconditionally whatever students bring with them to the learning experience, to value their 'prior ideas', their thoughts and then to build one and challenge each student so as to develop positive attitudes towards learning. This depends on teacher pedagogical skill as well as understanding ( or access to) appropriate content. Respectful mutual relationships between all involved will be be vital.

Every classroom, and the whole school, including the grounds, should celebrate and respect student's creativity. Classrooms, in particular, should inform all of the quality of students thinking as will information stored digitally. All students, in such a 'learning community', ought to know, what, why, how , when (and what is regarded as quality work) in all they do.

Together the Vision, the Values and the Teaching Beliefs would transform education as we know it.

All very possible.


Anonymous said...

The idea of clarifying purpose ( at any level) then creating the beliefs to realize it is a sensible one - as is the attempt to sythesize the best of traditional and progressive educational methods. We are well past the futility of this 'either or mentality'.

Anonymous said...

Wow! If only schools were as you 'envision' them! Be great fun to be a learner or a teacher! You can't always say that at present it would seem.

Bruce Hammonds said...

It would seem to me important for our country to have a 'great conversation' about education ( or better still the future of our country).

It is too important to leave in the hands of the politicians and their advisers and technocrats. The former are into short term vote catching success the latter into retaining their positions of power.

We now have the technology to have such a democratic conversation.