Saturday, April 29, 2017

Are the kids correct?

We keep hearing about all the issues in classrooms these days. Students unruly behaviour. Teachers and EAs wearing Kevlar vests. Students, teachers, parents all upset.

Students are being given absurd labels like ADD, ODD, ADHD. All of this so we can treat them like something is wrong. But what if nothing is wrong with them but in the way we are looking at the situation. What if the kids are correct and, the adults and experts, have it wrong?  

Every person has their own learning style. Every person has their own rate of learning as well. Some people learn to read and write at an earlier age than others do. Some may not fully be ready until they are older, say 7 to 11 years old. The same with math and other subjects. Are we forcing them to learn things outside their own learning cycle? If we are then we are promoting the child’s resistance to learning, creating the label that we have given them. But if we allow a child to learn at their own pace, the behaviour problem disappears, the child is content.

Most schools do not respect the individual learning of students. The minute we mark something we are telling students what we see them as capable of achieving. We compare them against each other and set expectations for success. But as adults we have our own idea of what success is. Children need to develop their own idea of what success is. They do that when they discover the world around them, not by the guidelines adults set for them. They do this through play, communication, exploration.

How does a school do this? Set up a group that promotes play and self learning. Allow those students to learn at their own pace. Do we need everything in the curriculum? No, studies demonstrate that when kids learn at their own pace they become stronger, more motivated learners. They learn because they want to, not because we make them.

So the question is: do we trust children’s capacities?

The quick answer is yes. That is because we see children through our eyes, not through their eyes. We see ourselves trusting their capabilities, until we tell them no, or feel frightened or afraid for them. Them we adopt the stance that the adult knows best. And in some cases this may be true but without good communication skills the children will never see it.

Life is about learning. We, the adults, have learned far more than school could ever teach us. It is time to allow kids to have the same all through their lives. Encouraging them to learn about what they wish will give them a sense of control over their lives. Isn’t that what every kid with ADHD, ADD, and ODD wants?

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.