Friday, 26 July 2019

Creating Life Long Lovers of Learning

                                                         Actions Speak Louder Than Words

If I was asked what is important in education I would probably say first and foremost, to promote Emotional Intelligence (E.Q.) and in particular kindness. With this front and centre, all else is possible.

The next level of importance for me is to foster life-long learning. A very key aspect of facilitating this outcome is
to provide the conditions where children are supported to see their world, grapple with it, play with it and express
their ‘take on it’ through their amazing creative self. We just need to help them experience wonder, joy, discovery,
adventure and personal achievement whilst skillfully building their resilience, curiosity, creativity and of course those
foundational skills which open the world of communication and reasoning.

This is easy said, but hard to achieve. However if we are determined to build our capability around  this philosophy,
then our children will not only become capable learners, they will become life-long lovers of learning. This is no
soft, new age thinking  approach as it demands high expectations, rigour, humility and tenacity by those skilled
educators taking on this challenge.

I like a lot of the Montessori philosophy as their two main goals are to build this love of learning and confidence in
children. The Montessori approach provides a child with extended time in which to develop their emerging cognitive
abilities acknowledging the developmental nature of learning. This developmental and personalised approach fits
well with what I have said above.

So what’s new? Not a lot as this has been said by all ‘n sundry’ for centuries. The ‘powers that be’ who set policy
have the best intentions and are usually well informed but in their attempt to create the ideal conditions for learning
in schools, they have often stumbled.

The main area of this ‘stumble’ is their desire to see accountability. Often blunt tools are used which require schools
to justify their existence. National Standards was one of those tools as is ‘teacher inquiry’ where teachers are
directed to  inquire into their practice and provide a trail of evidence to show they are going through a cycle of
review of their teaching. Of course this practice of trialing new approaches to maximise student learning is very
important, but it has always been part of a good teacher’s repertoire of practice. It is to be fostered and expected.
Unfortunately though, the compliance expectations have often been misinterpreted so ‘teacher inquiry’ became
‘bigger than Texas’ for some schools. This has caused frustration, anxiety, stress and confusion for some teachers
and they can spend an inordinate amount of quality time filling in their trail of evidence to meet the school’s

Thank goodness national standards have been scrapped and clear messages have come from the Minister of
Education that teacher appraisal as we know it needs re-defining. 

I am cautiously optimistic about the future here. However, I am hoping some new assessment ‘ruler’ is not created
to promote teacher / school accountability as students do not learn concepts in a linear fashion and to date, this
approach has been counter productive in the primary sector.  Equally, teachers need to be accountable and we
need to promote and encourage teachers thinking and inquiring into their practice. We need to have high
expectations and then give them time to think, watch, absorb and do their magic.

The very well respected educationalist and author, David Stewart said in 1997, ‘ will be necessary to step
beyond the current obsession with measuring short term inputs and outputs and attempting to decide whether
individual teachers meet some mythical standard which is so difficult to express. Instead we need to address
teaching as a form of intellectual endeavour as opposed to a collection of definable tasks, and devise
methodologies which both increase teachers’ intellectual fluency and provide time, space and incentive for all staff
to engage in critical reflection of their work.” 

I agree and the accountability model of assurance checks on schools should be tweaked to a rigorous guidance model.
Accountability is a must but the focus should be on sustainable progress implementing best practice within minimum
bureaucracy and ‘death by paperwork’. 

Enough ‘talking the talk’, schools should only  ‘walk their talk’.