Look at you with your post-a-day in the New Year! Very impressive. I appreciate the singular points per post that allow me to reflect on my own practice more intentionally.
I’ve often been involved in the argument about my role as an educator at an independent school. I find myself caught in spats about what parents are paying for (entrance to university) versus what I know should happen with assessment in my classes (co-creation of success criteria, opportunities to re-submit, differentiation, responsive pedagogy). Your post gives me more courage to push back. What I’m learning to better articulate is that the more we put students in charge of what they are learning and how they are learning it, the better learners they become. A strong learner can adapt to many different learning environments, not just a university lecture hall. A learner who has had the opportunity to think about how they learn and express that learning can move forward in varied and challenging situations.
I couldn’t have said it better myself. Happy to inspire you and give you courage. Obviously, I’m in a special situation where my parents are on board with the vision and philosophy, and we are not yet big enough to have to deal with the type of bureaucracy that inevitably forms when systems grow. Having said that, my number one battle with schools (public and private) is against empty rhetoric. Far too many schools are saying they are doing these things and they are not. If you start with the needs of your learner, all other variables will fall into place. Anything else is just politics.
Empty rhetoric – yes, that’s so much of it!
Doucet and I often have a conversation about how to encourage people to look for the research that supports their claims. And to examine the research that doesn’t. Or how to get people to be open-minded about what is best for the learner.
Research, like statistics, is one of those rarefied beasts of contention. Only because it can so easily be twisted to suit the needs of whatever argument you happen to be supporting. Case in point. One of the most damning indictments of progressive education came in the form of a Harvard sponsored research paper entitled The Grammar of Schooling: (http://media.myunion.edu/faculty/williamsb/EDU504/Tyack%20and%20Cuban,%20Why%20the%20Grammar%20of%20Schooling%20Persists1.pdf)
This paper (although quite old now) was very highly researched but presents a view of educational change that I intuitively and philosophically don’t agree with. And it’s because it doesn’t factor in the idea that change is an end-point to itself. No institution wants to spend money just for the sake of it, but I have yet to work for a school where the teachers and students aren’t excited by innovation, even if that innovation turns out to be short-lived (smartboards anyone!). I have research slides for each of my 13 Reasons Why, just to help my credibility if it comes to defending my argument. It doesn’t mean schools will be willing to adopt change. Change is personal, institutional, and then cultural. Risk is perceived or felt at each of these levels. Breaking through to the other side with authenticity and genuine care for all the people involved is the politics of teaching. That’s why regardless of research, we should start with the learner. The reason I am loving Montessori’s pedagogy is because it is developmentally researched and doesn’t fall prey to the whims of ego or trend.