Something to put in your pipe and smoke…
Someone on the Mudpud list posted the link to this newspaper article this week – i have included the link but in the end it will disappear so i have snipped out the bits that spoke most strongly to me. Its an incredibly strong and positive article though. For anyone who doubts HE, or wants to believe it must fail, its worth a read – because its effectively about an HE approach in school, a system similar to one i learned in for 8 years, and its working. (As we who know, knew it would!)
The Globe and Mail: “Anne Cassidy’s Grade 5-6 class has just started a unit on urban studies. But none of them knows it.
Last week, they were camping at a wilderness park in Ontario for three days, lugging their water from a pump and cooking in the great outdoors. Now that they’re back, they are brainstorming about what makes a city: What would it take to build one in the place where they camped?
The classroom is alive with voices. One boy is sitting up on the table, the better to make his points to the person who is writing down ideas on a poster-sized sheet of paper. Another is drawing out his ideas, because that’s the way he explains best.
They’ll have to have food in their city, one of the groups remarks. And clothing to buy. But where will that come from? Who will make it and how will they be paid? What forms of energy will they need? How will they get them? What about government? Who gets to make decisions, and how are they chosen?
There is no script here at the Institute of Child Study’s laboratory school on Walmer Road in downtown Toronto. No government-mandated questions on a set topic, as has been the trend in education nearly everywhere in the past decade. The children are constructing their own curriculum, being guided by their teacher but not being spoon-fed.
This is the hidden curriculum, the one no government can engineer, about spontaneity, discovery, intellectual agility, problem solving, creative thought. As for the official curriculum, Ms. Cassidy confides later that the children are actually digging into units on government, energy, community and current affairs. For the creative-writing unit, she says, she might ask them to write a story based in a water-treatment plant like the one they’ll see in a later field trip.
The joke around here is that the children are having so much fun, they don’t realize they’re learning.
‘It’s not impossible,’ said Elizabeth Morley, principal of the independent school that is run by the University of Toronto’s Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. Its tuition is over $7,000 and the waiting list is 1,000 children long. ‘If people want this, this is what they do. It really happens.'” (snip)
The “slow schooling” movement runs directly counter to those who believe children should be filled up with information, the more quickly the better. Slow, in this case, means savouring information instead of swallowing it whole, digesting it instead of regurgitating it before its intrinsic nourishment can make itself felt. Slow, as in exploring something deeply and thoroughly, learning how to learn, how to ask questions, how to understand, how to apply that understanding to other areas of study. (snip)
he Grade 4 teacher at the laboratory school, Richard Messina, recalled how passive his students were in the public-school classrooms where he used to teach. And if the principal should happen to enter, he said, each student needed to be seated, quiet and on the same page as everyone else.
He chuckled, savouring the difference at the laboratory school.
“Our end point is not a test. It’s not even a product,” said Mr. Messina. “It’s knowledge. (snip)
The problem, said Prof. Levin, is that schools can’t intensify forever. Putting too much pressure on them can suck the joy out of learning, a phenomenon he sees happening all over the world. And expecting children to learn without heart doesn’t work: “The fallout is that we’re getting less value out of the education system than we could,” he said. “I’m not advocating that the pressure come off, just that there be a balance of pressure and support.”
There is plenty of evidence to support that view, much of it from the arena of science, which increasingly shows that children who are stuffed full of factoids and expected to perform don’t do as well as children who are allowed to play. By a dreadful irony, trying to make your child smarter can backfire. (snip)
Prof. Hirsh-Pasek and some colleagues tested 120 children to see whether preschools with more academic curricula produced smarter, happier and more creative children. Initially, the children who had been drilled in letters and numbers knew more at age 5 than the group that had focused on playing. But by the time they were 6, that gap had vanished.
What didn’t go away, though, was the finding that the children who had gone to the academic preschool were less creative and less enthusiastic about learning. “Factors such as self-awareness, self-discipline, empathy and understanding others are all part of being truly smart and successful,” they write.
Mainstream educational ideas, said Prof. Hirsh-Pasek, are at odds with the science as it’s understood. The fallout is that young children in heavy-duty academic drilling are less settled, more aggressive, more perfectionist, more apt to believe that there is only one right answer. “What we’re doing is setting ourselves up to have fact-finders, not creative thinkers,” she said. (snip)
The Japanese, long renowned for their awesome test scores and cram-all-night-style of learning, have also changed tack. Now, the Japanese emphasis is on giving students more choice, less structure, shorter school hours and more slow time to think. Government officials call it the “sunshine” approach to education.
“Our current system, just telling kids to study, study, study, has been a failure,” one official told The New York Times. He added that students were exhausted, lacked initiative, and found creativity an alien concept. (snip)
Back at the laboratory school in Toronto, several of the teachers are musing about how others could make a school like theirs. They’ve had visitors from Japan, The Netherlands, Brazil and many other countries, but rarely from Canada, even though the school is partly funded as a research facility.
They chuckle about standardized testing. At some points in the nine years they have the same groups of children (from nursery school until the end of Grade 6), they have to introduce them to the concept, even though they believe standardized tests do not measure anything critically important.
And when the lab-school children do write the Canadian Test of Basic Skills, a chestnut in the standards arsenal, they routinely score in the 94th to 99th percentiles. In math, it’s invariably the 99th. Many go on to capture scholarships and excel at the best universities in the world, including some of the Ivy Leagues in the U.S.
“We’re not harming them by this approach,” Principal Morley says, smiling broadly.
Mr. Holt contends that “the supreme irony of the slow school is that precisely because it provides the intellectual nourishment students need . . . good test results follow. Success, like happiness, is best pursued obliquely.” (snip)