What’s Good For The Goose…

No, this is not a seasonal reference (Happy Christmas, by the way).

So, here’s how I spent my Christmas:  writing a  pamphlet, marking the end of the Development and Research phase of Learning Futures (coming to a download near you in February). Sad, I know, but it was either that, or watch Australian TV re-run BBC’s Christmas of 2010 (didn’t like it first time around).

Trying to make sense of an intense, innovative and (sometimes) radical journey has been challenging, but I had a bit of an epiphany yesterday. And, since it was replayed today, I thought I’d share it with you.

Our conceptual model for Learning Futures has, thanks to schools constantly challenging the project team, been evolving significantly over the past two years. Essentially, we believe that students are only ever going to be engaged by attending an ‘engaging school’. What is an engaging school, I hear you ask? Well, basically a school that integrates head and hands, knowledge and skills, through project-based learning. A school that sees ‘school’ as merely the basecamp for learning, not the destination. A school that believes that we need a diverse range of learning relationships to replace the teacher-student FM/AM model. All of this should be underpinned by a culture which we describe as the ‘learning commons’: a belief that schools should be open, shared spaces where parents, communities and buisnesses should have a stake in, and a say in, what goes on there. Most schools are ‘enclosures’ – closed, regimented, spaces and schedules,  governed by the concept of ‘subjects’ and, of course, testing. So teachers teach the exam first, the subject second and the child third. A learning commons culture might teach the child first, support the community second, and involve the parents third. (Yes, I know, you’d worry about test scores with that culture, but every school that I know with a learning commons culture has exemplary test scores).

It’s a radically different model of  pedagogy to the exisitng norm, but what we’ve also learned is that you can’t change pedagogy without changing the school – especially the learning culture of the school. So, the question we’ve been grappling with is this: how do schools respond to the professional imperative to change their cultures, structures and spaces through (and I’m really sorry for using this word) andragogy? To save you looking it up, andragogy = learning strategies focused on adults (at least that’s how Wikipedia defines it, so it must be right).

And then it hit me. We do it, by doing exactly what we think is best for our kids, to ourselves. Applying the Learning Futures pedagogical approaches (Project-Based Learning, School as Basecamp & Extending Learning Relationships) to ourselves, results in teachers building a learning community, with the school as the project; the learning to be found outside of the school, and the range of ‘teachers’ widened to include mentors, coaches and educational experts.

I sketched these ideas up into a handy infographic (‘slides’ are so 2011..) which you can cut out and keep:

Lf_fractal_model_blog

Long story short: it’s a fractal model of professional development. What works for kids, works for us, too. So far, so theoretical. And then, today, I saw a really great post from the people at Playducation, who had recently visited the inspirational educators at Northern Beaches Christian School in Sydney. They included a short video which brings my little infographic  to life, not to mention, actual practice:

So, then I knew it wasn’t because I’d been at the cooking sherry, it was because I was right all along. Look, don’t take my word for it, just have a gander at Stephen Harris talking in the video (do you see what I did there? Good for the goose, etc?)

Happy New Year, folks  – may all your schools be transformed into learning commons in 2012.

 

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6 Responses to What’s Good For The Goose…

  1. skelly2525 says:

    Very interesting. I have been delivering lessons which are based around the premise of students designing their own learning journey through a process of asking their own questions and finding their own answers to them.The students love it and really like the fact they are in control, though I am still there to ask if there is a problem. However, the requirements laid down by LT and the reluctance of other staff to step out of comfort zones are the issues that come against students learning in the same way I’d learnt through life.

  2. John Kelleher says:

    Another great blog entry, David. I would love to have an environment with 200 kids all learning in the same space – how fantastic! Your point of a school’s andragogy needing to match the pedagogy is spot on but I’m still constantly amazed at the reluctance of staff in various school to even try something a bit different. Even if they give it a try, they often dismiss the positive learning experience as being something that works as a ‘one off’. It’s a constant uphill battle and I’m just delighted to see that other schools are having success with this.

  3. Steve_Collis says:

    Hi David. I work at NBCS. Thanks for your post. You’ve put your thumb on an issue that has been bubbling in my head for ages: why IS school only for children anyway? What if we scrapped adolescence as it is currently constructed, and kids could start ‘real life’ from age 13 or 14, while still ‘attending school’, but then ‘attending school’ could extend through one’s entire life span. I’m thinking: lots of campuses, content-agnostic (students pull modules from the cloud / wherever they like), experts on hand to trouble-shoot (few full-time teachers, but lots of volunteers or part timers showing up for a morning a week), and a range of community programs: sport, music, art, theatre, markets, commerce, showcases etc.

  4. kf70 says:

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts and creating an inspiring post. I thoroughly enjoyed the video too and I would love to experience teaching in a school that encourages this type of learning and innovative practices. (Perhaps one of the reasons why I enjoy teaching Prep so much is because of the ‘freedom’ to teach inside and out, with a child-centred focus.)

  5. David Price says:

    Thanks, folks for comments so far. Slightly surprised by some of the negative twitter responses… I hate slipping into jargon (and it clearly irritates some people) but if we want to think differently then maybe using metaphors and different words is the way we shake our brains out of habitual thinking.John, you’ve obviously experienced some of the same reactions, but, as you’ll see from other responses, lots of folks here in Australia have had more positive experiences. NBCS is a great school with a great, thought-through philosophy – others will realise this is the way to go.

  6. markmoorhousemm says:

    A post which is succinct, lucid and on the button. Much appreciated.Your perceptions align perfectly with what the worlds of business and science have recognised for a long time: that workforces which are learning communities are the only effective way forward. The statistician and business leader Dr W E Deming was absolutely clear about how vital it is for organisations to be learning communities if they are to keep in business and flourish and he didn’t beat around the bush in expressing this: “Learning is not compulsory …. neither is survival.”Charles Leadbeater in his book “We-Think” highlights the collaborative professional learning which enabled Sydney Brenner’s ground-breaking genome work and it is clear that without such innovation in how his Laboratory of Molecular Biology was organised, the task would have been impossible. “Brenner’s laboratory was hard-working and meritocratic, egalitarian and conversational. People often discussed ideas in the coffee room. They were exploring new territory, devising the process as they went along, so there were no fiefdoms to defend. Sharing ideas quickly became normal.” They were buzzing about cataloguing the genetic structure of the C. elegans worm: communities of teachers learning together can quickly acquire the same productive excitement about designing better ways for young people to develop as learners.And the central point of the blog, that learners, whether older or younger, learn best in the same way, by engaging with real problems, on an equal footing with others, in discourse with a range of relevant experts, peers and facilitators, travelling outside the institution to pursue parts of their investigations, is not some wishful, hippy aspiration either. Waitrose are currently investing significant funds (and in the current economic climate!) into work with Bristol University to introduce enquiry-based learning into the workplace. They know that when employees are allowed to be learners, innovation occurs, improvements happen and profit-margins increase. And the learning processes involved are exactly the same as those employed to facilitate enquiry-based learning for both staff and young people in many schools.If we as educators do not take heed of posts such as this (perhaps struggling to shake off a long-standing, monastic model of pedagogy based on an image of an initiate and a congregation) and reframe ourselves as learners alongside other learners, then we risk validating Oscar Wilde’s vicious view that “Everybody who is incapable of learning has taken to teaching.”He was wrong … wasn’t he?

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