Sunday, April 23, 2017

Purpose of Education

A question for you. What is the purpose of education? What, in your opinion, is the ideal learning experience for children?

The world has such a wide variety of learning systems in place. I would like to see the things people propose as being essential for learning.

I look forward to hearing your responses.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Some Nuthall observations

Nuthall discovered that teachers are largely unaware of what their students are learning and base their practice on the cultural ideal of a busy active classroom.  However, Nuthall found no evidence of a direct link between teaching and learning.

The evidence showed that differences in student learning were the result of individual student motivation and to what extent the individual student shared the values and culture of the teacher/tester/school.

What he discovered, unsurprisingly, is that teaching is an enormously complex process not easily studied due to the hundreds of variables involved
When researching he could not find any scientifically sound teaching methods that could be relied upon to produce similar results.

Nuthall reasoned that because teaching/learning is such a personal and individual process valid research must include the subjective and personal elements of what goes on between the teachers and their students.

In order to manage a class of 25 to 35 students, all of whom have different knowledge, skills, interests and motivations, teachers have to focus on the performance of the class as a whole.  It is impossible to focus on the individual learning of any one student for more than very brief periods.
Within these standard patterns of whole-class management, students learn how to manage and carry out their own private and social agendas.  They learn how and when the teacher will notice them and how to give the appearance of active involvement.  They get upset and anxious if they notice that a teacher is keeping more than a passing eye on them.
If teaching is like conducting an orchestra, then it must be primarily about group management and must follow predictable patterns, so that both teacher and students know how to interact with each other.
Learning is usually a progressive change in what we know or can do.  What creates or shapes learning is a sequence of events or experiences, each one building on the effects of the previous one.  An event at one point in the sequence will have a different effect from the effect the same event would have had if it had occurred at another point in the sequence.
It is less important what that student is doing, or what resources the student is using, or what are any of the other contextual aspects of the experience.  What matters is the sense the student is making of the experience.
“that a large proportion of each student’s significant learning experiences were either self-selected or self-generated, even in quite traditional classrooms.”

The more able students talked more amongst themselves about relevant content.  They asked more questions and persisted with problems for a longer time.  They seemed to be more interested, more persistent, and less likely to be distracted.  There was no evidence that they found the tasks easier, or had fewer difficulties.  There was no evidence that their minds processed the experience differently.  The difference was in the way they managed their involvement in classroom activities, and in the advantage they gained from having more relevant background knowledge.
So those students whose backgrounds provide them with the cultural knowledge and skills to use the classroom and its activities for their own purposes, learn more than those who dutifully do what they are told but do not want, or know how, to create their own opportunities.  Differences in ability are more likely to be the product of differences in classroom experiences than the other way around.
“Knowledge is more like a continuous landscape rather than a set of discrete countable objects.  It cannot be sensibly represented by numbers.  This lead to the conclusion that the scores that students get on standard paper and pencil tests are primarily the result of the students’ motivations and cultural background, and only secondarily about what the student knows or can do.”

Teachers consistently said they knew their teaching was going well based on the appearance of student engagement.
It was the look in the students’ eyes, the questions they asked, the fact that they didn’t stop talking about the topic or problem when they left the classroom.  In short, by the feel and sounds of interest and focused busyness.

Graham Nuthall

Below is an article by Graham Nuthall as well as a brief bio of him. His research demonstrates the reasons why Sudbury Schools work.

Professor Emeritus Graham Nuthallgraham_nuthall_4

Graham Nuthall is credited with the longest series of studies of teaching and learning in the classroom that has ever been carried out and it has been recognised by the educational research community as one of the most significant. A pioneer in his field, his research focused on the intimate relationship amongst students and the teachers within the classroom, resulting in a deeper understanding of the significant and often very subtle classroom interactions which influence learning.
After completing his PhD at the Univeristy of Illinois he returned to the University of Canterbury and was made a professor at the age of 37.

His work was published in many international journals including the Harvard Educational Review. He won many awards including the New Zealand Science and Technology Medal from the Royal Society. In 2003 he was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to education.

Friday, March 31, 2017

The Black Hole Of Ordinary Life

The Black Hole Of Ordinary Life

I read this sentence fragment the other day and became fascinated by it. To me I see it as the sameness that life predictably falls into when we go about our days and nothing really changes. Next day. Same Shit is what I have heard some people say. Yes, the daily drudgery of living. We are all there. We have all had this experience. Feeling the same things repeat themselves. Feeling that we are trapped.

I believe this is the place where depression lives. It is the feeling of doing the same mind numbing thing day after day. The feeling that we are in the middle of something we cannot find our way out of. Often to get out it means a change must occur. We must do something differently. Some people flee. Others drink. Still others discover they have an interest in something that provokes that desire to do something different.

The black hole of ordinary life. Indeed.

Rethinking the post secondary route

Why are we training every high school student to go to college or university? Why are we not encouraging apprenticeship programs at earlier levels so that students can easily transfer into a job environment which they are interested in? If they need more school they can return to school to obtain it.  Their is a strong need in our society for people who have acquired business experience. There is a need for entrepreneurs. Both of these can be started at an early age and developed to give them the strength to understand what they are going to do with the rest of their lives.

School as it exists is only to foster the needs of an unspecified job market, putting workers into their businesses without creating a common factor for the growth of the business and the individuals. Successful small business have employers and employees who communicate effectively with each other so that all make work towards the better good of the business. Unsuccessful businesses have lone wolves who are the answer to everything, in their own eyes.

Effective businesses have competent people working for them. They have people with passion and creativity. These people often leave them because they are destined for projects larger than one small store can handle but an ethical employer will have no problem hiring more competent people.

Building a better relationship between business and schools makes sense in so many ways. Students, at an earlier age gain insights into what it takes to be in the business world. If they are entrepreneurial minded they can easily see where their lives could lead.

It is time for us to rethink the school - job market approach. Sending everyone off to post secondary learning is not helping everyone.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

From School lo Education and a Happy Life

In order to have a happy life we must have goals that are achievable. These goals cannot be set up by anyone but us as an individual. They must be realistic. They must be exciting. They must stir our imagination and invest our creativity. Can we achieve these goals alone? In the our purest sense yes, but we all need a social network to bounce our theories around with. We must be able to communicate clearly that which we want and envision a path towards achieving it. We must have friends who will guide us, challenge us, make us think about what we want from life. They can suggest avenues to explore.

The setting of these goals is a part of our lifelong drama. It starts early in our lives when we first start challenging the tenets of our parents, our education and our government. They must be beneficial to us. It is an ongoing part of our lifelong learning and must be adaptable to the changes that are necessary for us to grow.  

The education of us takes place outside the classroom. It takes place wherever we are as we explore the world around us, everyday. It takes place in our homes, our offices, our cars, our social and athletic events. It takes place in our communications with each other and with unknown individuals we meet along the way.

With this in mind why we do we subject students to lengthy periods of inactivity where what they are learning has no relevance or meaning to them? How do they find meaning for their lives when mired in meaningless homework assignments? How do they fulfill themselves with information they cannot use? Would it not be better to have students more engaged in thoughts and ideas that are important to them?

It is time to shift education in another direction, one where the students are in control of their learning. But that may be for another blog.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

What are children receiving from an education?

When you ask children about their favourite part of the school day 3 things pop up immediately. The first is recess where they get to run around and explore with their friends. The second is gym where again they get to run around and be with friends in a less structured environment. The third is art where creativity reigns.

These three times in the day or week come to mind because they are free to explore more of their own ideas

I am sure there are as many reasons that people have developed about this attitude from kids. The reality is that most of school doesn’t meet the needs of the students. People will argue that students don’t know what they need. That is not true. Students are always aware of what they need at that point in time, and school rarely delivers it.  How can they? Things are taught out of  a natural order that confuses kids. Combine that with they are taught things that they feel they don’t need in their lives so they end up frustrated and bored. Schools rely on marks to make the students lives meaningful. They talk about the importance of learning but the end result is either you have the marks or you don’t. Marks are for comparison. Teachers rank kids based on marks. Schools base entrance on marks. The emotional stability of the students is to be honed because of good marks or poor marks. It undermines who they are and what they can accomplish.

The thing is children learn what they live. They develop skills based on what they need in their lives rather than on what someone else says they need. They work to discover meaning for themselves as well as discovering the purpose of their lives. While life has right and wrong answers it also teaches us about the decisions we make. Kids need to make these discoveries, not be told about them. Self respect and self esteem grow because of the trial and error method they employ. Kids will keep searching for meaning because they need to understand their world and what they do. This requires time and energy that school is not prepared to give them.

So what are students really learning in school? Not just about the subjects they are introduced to but about how they can discover this themselves. And most of that happens outside of school. This is where they learn the most and strengthen their skills. This is where they receive their best education.