What was it like at your school?
Were you a smart kid? Were the classes streamed/graded or mixed ability or some combination of both? How did your teachers teach, engage and stimulate interest in the topic or activities? What was the best thing about the way you were taught at school? What was the worst? Was student welfare evident?
If you are an educator, what is it like at the school you work at now? Different? Pretty similiar?
Schools play a large part in the construction of student idenit(ies). The way a school organises the students and the programs that are emphasised say a lot about what is valued. Teachers have often preferred streamed/graded classes as there is a perception that it makes lesson preparation easier, especially for traditional teacher-centred lessons. The impact on student motivation and self-esteem of being graded into a ‘bottom’ class is often profound.
Personally, I have few ‘mountains to die on’ but the notion that 11-12 year olds enter a high school and a factory sorting system ‘ranks’ them borders on abhorrent. I was pleased to read that the NSW Board of Studies recommends phasing out the streaming of students according to their ability, citing research that says it has little effect on achievement – even in Maths.
Constructivist notions of education and the impact of technology increasingly allow for individualised intruction and educators need to develop more sophisticated approaches to managing learning in classes. Creating the conditions and opportunity in the class for students to take responsibility for their learning is key. What do we value? Self-motivated students engaging in rich, relevant curriculum with appropriate use of technologies with a skilful facilitator of these conditions would seem about right. Another mountain?
DET, prodded by the NSW Teachers Federation has an important role in creating the conditions that transform our places of education into relevant, 21st century learning spaces with appropriate levels of funding, organisation and leadership. I particularly like the ’21st Century Conditions for 21st Century Learning’ conference theme posted at the NSWTF site but wonder what is meant by ‘preferential upskilling’?
However, as wheels slowly roll for the various organisations we work for and unions that have a keen interest in social inclusivity, the reality is that change must start with the individual…what are we doing to help kids and our community to prosper? Business as usual is not going to be enough it seems; it’s better to light a candle than curse the darkness.
Or maybe that should be something more technologically advanced than our metaphoric candle.