I picked up this 1937 Teachers Quarterly for a $1 at a market over the summer. It was really for a bit of a laugh to read and look at how much had changed.
But I was a little surprised to see that after all these years, educators are continuing to send the same messages. And it appears, policy writers are reluctant to listen.
I think the main difference is that this article was written for teachers with a want to change them. Now teachers are very familiar with less talk, more learning. Sadly it a message we try to get through to our government who are supporting teaching as “telling” through their advocacy of programs such as direct explicit instruction.
As education continues to become a valuable market where NAPLAN results are the currency, educators are having to defend pedagogies and their knowledge of how learning occurs.
And this is likely to become even more extreme as we hand over education to private businesses with discussion turning to Australian versions of Charter Schools.
I always love the opportunities new beginnings offer you and this week my new beginning was starting at a new school. Usually a time of trepidation and nerves I found myself full of excitement and a sense of feeling like I was truly at home. Instead of the agenda for the first day being full of protocols, check boxes, lists of things to do and timetables, my first two days was spent at the school conference, two days focused on learning and teaching, pedagogy and the teacher as a researcher.
From the first few minutes my head was spinning with thoughts, reflections and questions. The perfect beginning in my mind as I am provoked by those around me and challenged in my thinking, setting the scene for the year ahead both as a teacher and an inquirer.
The conference was made up of a series of presentations such as those which looked at theory, philosophy of learning, the educational environment and assessment. We also heard from different teachers as they shared their own research and past inquiries with students. The most confronting activity for me was when we listed different types of assessment and categorised them according to the learning theory area they aligned with, behaviourist, constructivist or cultural historical. It was interesting to see how I use learning theory to drive my teaching but this had not crossed to assessment.
Our morning back at school after the conference started with a visit to the National Gallery Victoria where we had an opportunity to look through the Emily Floyd Exhibition and meet the Melbourne based artist who uses education and knowledge as themes in her work. Using this as a chance to create our own provocations as educators we stepped through the exhibitions and analysed some of the pieces. It provided a unique opportunity to have another lens with which to view our educational lives and put ourselves in the shoes of learners as well as using it as inspiration for our professional work.
After two days away with my peers I was able to get a real sense of belonging and by the time we headed back into school on Friday I felt part of a team that was passionate and inspired, ready to challenge each other as professionals to provide authentic and rich learning experiences for students.
On the weekend I attended the #beerpedagogy tweet up. I always look forward to a #beerpedagogy event, and no not because of the beer! You may be wondering what on earth #beerpedagogy is and it is probably just as you think. A group of people who get together every now and then at a great craft beer location in Melbourne and talk pedagogy. And we talk a lot of it! I am lucky enough to attend a lot of educational meet ups in Melbourne and enjoy them all but #beerpedagogy is different to the others. There are many robust conversations as we agree and disagree on the best way to solve all of the world’s education problems and have discussions on what the problems are. And we are pretty honest with each other as we probe and question our thoughts, learning from each other and being challenged as well.
The conversations are so good that often days and weeks afterwards I continue to grapple with them in my mind. The one that is sticking in my mind from Friday’s #beerpedagogy was around autonomy and choice in education. At one point I was questioned on my contradictions of educational philosophies where on one hand I want equity, centralised systems and an end to marketisation of education but on the other I cherish the opportunities autonomy gives me to focus on pedagogy based around inquiry, student centred approaches and the use of ICT in my classroom. At the time I was quick to reply that I would trade it all if it meant that every child in Australia had the same opportunity for education. One where who your parents are, where you live and how much money you have is irrelevant in learning.
So the last couple of days have been spent reflecting on that. I have been curious as to why we need to decide. What is it that makes me think we can’t have both. I think if anything it shows me that we are not yet in the same place when it comes to how we think students learn, what skills are important for students to learn and how best to do that. And the reason I felt I needed to choose is because the way I think our students should be learning is not yet the norm. It reminds me of a quote I heard on the radio recently. I have no idea what they were talking about and why it was important but I felt it worthy of writing down. “By treating it as normal it became a new culture.” So today that I have decided that I am not going to choose. I can still push for equity and maybe if I start treating inquiry, student driven learning as normal that together with a few of my #beerpedagogy mates it will become a new culture.
Image: ‘PUB FLAHERTY‘ Found on flickrcc.net