Posts Tagged ‘post modernism’

Video: Jane Gilbert on knowledge

November 12th, 2009

[21MB streaming Flash video]

Jane Gilbert, Chief Researcher at NZCER, discusses knowledge and implications for education, as presented on day 1 of The Shifting Thinking conference: 3 November 2009.

Setting: a well-loved chair outside the rehearsal room at Circa theatre, during day two.

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Shifting schooling

February 10th, 2009

I have been thinking recently about why educational change is so difficult.

Many of the so called C21st education ideas have been around for a long time in different forms and yet little seems to really change, despite the enthusiasm and energy of many educators. Recently I have been involved with a research project that looked at how a group of teachers at a local primary school responded to the opportunity to think about knowledge, learning and education in different ways. At the end of this project the teachers said that they had found thinking about the “big picture” of education satisfying even though they had all experienced times of discomfort and confusion. In relation to their practice, all the teachers said that they wanted to relinquish some of their power and control to the students but that they would find this hard even though they really wanted to do it.

The experience of these teachers reminded me of another teacher I used to meet with regularly. She was attempting to develop a classroom environment that was driven by the interests and needs of her five year old students. She wanted the students to be involved in decisions about their learning and to emphasise thinking. This teacher was convinced that her previous practice had not been effective and the principal had given her full support (and extra resources) to try something different and more responsive to what she believed were these children’s needs. Despite this support and the teacher’s belief that “more of the same” was not going to be helpful for these children, she constantly doubted herself as she deviated from what was considered “good practice” in a junior classroom.

As I thought about these teachers and their struggles to do something different from the norm I thought about my own children and my response to their educational experiences and I realised that when I’m talking to them about what happens at school I tend to fall back to some default position based, I suppose, on my own schooling. Suddenly the results of formal assessments become more important than the process of learning! My ideas about what really matters in education and what needs to change suddenly disappear out the window!

It seems to me that perhaps ideas about what a traditionally “good education” really is, and what matters, are more engrained in me than I like to admit. (I wonder if this is the same for others). I know the current system is not adequately preparing young people for their future but I still don’t have a clear idea of what counts as powerful knowledge now. I want my children to have access to whatever it is they want to do or be, but without a clear idea of what knowledge will open those doorways for my children, I fall back on the knowledge my parents (and grandparents) valued.

We talk a lot about the skills, dispositions and attitudes that students might need for the future but what “stuff” do they need to know? What is powerful knowledge for the 21st century? If we were surer about this, would we be more open to think and behave differently?

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