Monday, May 29, 2017

The Education System is Broken

The education system is broken. Everywhere we look there are complaints about it: from parents, educators, employers and especially students. The most common complaint is that the skills being taught do not meet the needs of society. Society has matured past the idea that education has to come from one source. Formal schools provide a source that is rooted in the past.  It cannot improve its service as it is currently configured. The problem with it is that we have kids who are moving at a faster pace than in the past. The knowledge they seek is at their fingertips yet schools insist on controlling the environments in which they learn, the curriculum the schools want to be taught and meet the needs of no one. No one in the world of education wants to fix it. Oh yes they talk about it but really what they are doing is tweaking a dinosaur that wants to evolve but cannot.

Education in a school setting is much like a Die Hard movie. The protagonist realizes there is a problem and informs the proper authorities who respond in a low key way. He then has one true believer who trusts his instincts and judgement. It is someone from within the system who knows and feels what is happening. The protagonist then takes on the bad guys one by one, meanwhile fending off authority who want to deny the problem is as big as it is. So the protagonist fights on bravely until the end when the people in power claim victory and take credit for solving the problem. The real problem, not dealing with the issue and solving it, is still in place until the next crisis where it repeats.

This is true in education. Education needs recreating for the new age yet the government are happy with the way it is because they have no children in the system. Their children go to private schools. Their supporters and influential people are not public school supporters. Education becomes a low priority to them. Therefore education never changes. Also education, while it appears to be in the hands of governments around the world is heavily influenced by big business. Publishing companies help set up curriculum and provide research information that favours their companies. This takes the learning out of the hands of the students.

In order to change the educational system it must come from outside the system. The change needed is to convince the people whose children who are in the system that there is an alternative, that the cost is low and that their children will benefit from it. Parents need to realize that successful people are independent, self-reliant, confident, and individualistic. In other words they are Smart Creative. They see problems and seek solutions. This is what society needs, people who are capable of making informed decisions based on the information they have.

Education must become a new way of doing business. The kids need to become the best they can be. Let's encourage them to be this.

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.

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.