Topic 9 – Reflective Portfolio

Possibility Thinking for Social Change Instagram 9

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These bricks relate back to the Building Site photo in Topic 1. They are the unformed, the un-made. To me, they symbolise the possibilities open to us. Yes they are bricks. but what might they be? A house, a wall, a tower, an archway or something that doesn’t have a name yet?

Possibility Thinking is a wonderfully simple concept; “A democratic notion of creativity in an everyday context” (Craft and Chappell, 2014). Valuing question-asking, improvisation, risk-taking, playfulness and imagination; what educational institution wouldn’t want to include these in their day to day existence?

 

Possibility Thinking in a School Context

Craft and Chappell (2014) look at two institutions in Exeter that implement Possibility Thinking in the running of the school. This made me reflect upon the overarching aspect of this style of thinking. PT can be applied in a single classroom activity, or in the class charter, departmentally, as a whole school policy, as a policy between affiliated schools, as a national policy or a global policy! There are no limits; the simplicity of the notion makes it so easy to apply in a variety of contexts.

In both cases, schools bucked the trend of increasing drive towards performativity and  instead embraces a playful, creative curriculum that inspired passionate learners. When questioned about their results the headteacher of St Leonard’s was proud to tell us that many of her children excelled at not only the SATs but also the 11+ to gain entry to the local grammar school.

In both schools PT was modelled by the Head Teachers, providing the space and time for staff to experiment and think creatively too. This permeated the classroom context.

Both schools supported creative questioning and were action focused, encouraging staff to run personal Inquiry projects and to focus primarily on teaching and secondary on paperwork.

The schools felt a strong sense of pride in their ‘difference’ , their individual identity and a tangible positivity that what they were doing was right.

Nonetheless, the report (which was primarily based around interviews) noted that neither school took particularly huge risks, so risk taking was not a factor of PT that permeated the school. I don’t particularly agree with this; in simply breaking away from the norm these schools are taking risks. In giving teachers the freedom to explore, they are taking risks. Even the play equipment which would have been deemed to risky for Health and Safety (the trikes and bikes) at St. Leanords could be deemed as risk taking! I think that in terms of this study it’s a little unjust to say these schools weren’t risk taking on the basis of interviews.

 

What is creative change?

There were many ways in which the schools bought about creative change:

  1. Strong ethos/values/principles
  2. Challenging/complex/controversial drive for change – a support system, a gradual move in the right direction
  3. Driven by children and school community – including parents and students in decision making
  4. Staff ethos – a stable staff body, all driving for change , play to their strengths
  5. Digital media – being at the forefront of technology – using google cloud etc blogging – ‘mindful that it doesn’t take over’ though.

 

How were they going about it?

  1. Operating ‘In a bubble’ – protecting your school, steering towards a vision, preventing government strategies from intervening too heavily.
  2. Navigating performativity – research based principle gives confidence – don’t let the drive for performance undermine the vision of the school. NC only 20% of what they do.
  3. Focus on children’s well being; their interests, wants and needs. Adapting their route based on this – responsive
  4. Relating to other schools around them; creating a learning community – schools maintain their own pathways but offer support.

 

Reflections

I’m really heartened to see this drive for creative change in British schools. It echoes what I’ve seen in New Zealand. The school’s maintained a strong sense of self whilst also relating to others around them through the sharing of facilities and best practice amongst teachers.
I believe firmly that the less importance places on tests, the better. Yes data is needed to see how children are progressing, but this is not the only growth measurement. Testing should be subtle and shouldn’t be a cause of stress for teachers or students. Instead, both parties should feel happy and confident in the content covered and progress made by students.

Things I noted:

  • Wonder room – a maker space type zone? (how much was this used, looked a little TOO pristene!) wonderful to dedicate a space to exploration though
  • Lots of male teachers – perhaps this open, less judgemental  environment suits them? Perhaps it’s Jo’s drive to deliver a versitile and diverse learning experience.
  • A sense of collaboration between teachers, TAs and the management teams – I liked the observation schedule, I think that this would keep you on your toes, allow flowing dialogue about your lessons and allow you to appreciate your colleagues and their expertise. So often observation is seen as negative!
  • Checking of standards, peer checks as well as head of year. Subject leaders as responsible too – is this responsibility borne equally (ish)? It seems as though everyone was responsible for one area and they enabled others to work well.
  • Head bore ultimate responsibility for her staff “If it doesn’t work, I am accountable, I take responsibility. If it does work, they are responsible, they claim it!”  – I’ve experienced 2 types of head; one who put staff first and one who put parents first. The staff need to feel comfortable and supported, the parents will be happy with the by-product of happy staff which is happy children.
  • The school displays were really engaging – as a parent, I’d know exactly what my child was focusing on and would hopefully be able to help.
  • Use of experts – again, really similar to Lane Clarke’s Inquiry – using experts in the field to inspire. Combining your expertise.
  • Honesty around who you are as a learner – reflecting on your learning style.
  • Engagement centred around finding out what interested teachers and students. Asking, What do you want to learn? Instigating wonder – you don’t always need an objective – give them the opportunity to find out.
  • Teaching partnerships based on complimentary strengths

 

Questions arising?

Conflict and confrontations – between staff/visions/parents – how are these handled?

The role of technology in change – is everyone equally optimistic or are there sceptics to balance out arguments?

How do changes take place? Organically? How easy for staff to lead a change?

Examples of individual research projects at the school – staff Inquiries?

Why don’t other schools do this? Is it a fault in leadership? A lack of support?

 

 

Topic 8 – Reflective Portfolio

Progressive and traditional means of thinking of educational futures

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This picture is taken at my primary school, I’m the bottom right, looking a bit grumpy.

Throughout this course I’ve reflected upon the difference between my experience at school compared to the children I’ve taught and those that I will be teaching.

My primary school was very traditional in many ways; latin lessons, Saturday school, boarding for children from 7+, school dinners served at class tables by your class teacher, separate subjects from Year 3, tea with the headmaster for those who received excellent effort grades across all subjects and teachers who scared the living daylight out of you. Yet I have so many fond memories; the annual school play was a highlight taking up most of the Summer Term timetable! The celebrations throughout the year for Saints’ Days, Harvest festival (pictured here), Christmas carolling at care and respite homes; the list goes on.

As a school we were actively involved in our local community and the school was supported by a very active parental body. The school day was long; 8:30 – 5 but we had time for activities, art, drama, poetry. In many ways the school fits with a lot of the reading we’ve been doing throughout this module, in many ways it does not.

One thing I never felt was stressed. ‘Homework’ was done from 4:30 – 5 at school with teachers there to help, I wasn’t aware of any testing and effort was praised over attainment. I feel very sorry for those children I’ve taught recently in UK Year 6 classes who feel so under pressure for their KS2 SATs. I feel even more sorry for those who are in combined Year 5/6 classes and who have to bear witness to the stress their friends are under all the while knowing they’re next!

Changing Childhoods

There is widespread agreement surrounding the rapid changes that have occurred since the late 20th and early 21st centuries. These changes have impacted many areas of life; economy, education, employment, religion, national security, climate change and oil prices to name a few. These changes are a result of our industrialisation and human impact upon the Earth. An area of rapid change is that of technology and many experts predict that this change will continue at an exponential rate.

The impact that this change has had on childhood is telling; there is a vast gap between children now and those born 20 years ago. But are these children worse of for it? Are they Empowered? Should we be protecting them?

Childhood at risk Childhood as empowered
Exposure to inappropriate material through the Internet if not closely monitored. Able to research and find out answers instantly on any given topic.
Limited time spent outdoors due to parents longer working hours Able to make social connections globally and become part of a global community
Less onus on time together as a family as each member prioritises their device Creativity fostered through many different avenues, able to write and illustrate stories, code a game, graphic design and then share with a REAL audience
Increased risk of radicalisation or grooming through the internet Able to drive their interests/make decisions/consume and create online material

My views are akin to Buckingham (2007), childhood today is both at risk and empowered by technology. Children may spend time on devices, but will also enjoy playing ‘It’ on the playground. It’s unfair to categorise these children by lumping them all in one category.

Buckingham

One thing that we should acknowledge is that children are different because their world is very different. Craft (2011) calls for a complete re-design of education to cater for this.

Craft (2011)

Craft (2011) agrees that education reform is needed as ‘significant changes in childhood and youth demand system re-design in education.’ (2011; p.19) Craft’s views on education futures focus primarily around the role of creativity. Her summary of the development of human understanding of creativity ends on a note which is cautiously optimistic as she highlights a 21st Century drive for creativity in an educational context (2011; p.21), however, the type of creativity recognised in education is ‘a rather universalised, or one-size-fits-all concept of creativity’. (2011; p.20). Throughout this chapter Craft identifies 3 core ‘drivers’ for this move towards creativity (2011; pp. 21 – 24), which may be seen to be at odds with the co-current drive for ‘performativity’ (Ball, 2003 in Craft 2011; p.20).

Craft highlights economic, social and technological motives for a shift towards a creative focus in the curriculum. She concisely analyses a change in social trends from the early 20th Century (p.22) facilitated by an increase in technology, and her work draws upon a diverse range of knowledge from other researchers and professionals from the past 40 years.

Craft (2011) acknowledges both the negatives and the positives of our increasing reliance on technology (p.23), she quotes Harper et al. (2008) in asking ‘What will it mean to be human when everything we do is supported or augmented by technology?’. Craft’s answer to this question comes from her notion that the essence of humanity is our creativity (2011; p.19), she states that creativity is both needed and enhanced by technology. This is an encouraging viewpoint, the inevitable tidal wave of technology need not demean our humanity, perhaps, it could act to enhance it.

Craft highlights the paradoxical drive for performance alongside a move for greater creativity in schools; ‘[creative policies] highlighting flexibility, ingenuity, generativity, and … [performative policies] emphasising lack of trust in professional judgement in favour of technist curricula.’ (2011; p.26). I agree that this is slightly absurd, and, like Craft admire that the two have ‘battled to co-exist’ (2011; p.26).

Although I comprehend and appreciate Craft’s dislike of both ‘universalised’ and Neo-Liberal economic creativity (2011; p.21), it does jar a little with a question I have when talking to friends and associates in creative industries. There is clearly an ethical question surrounding the economic driver for creativity in schools; specifically in solely teaching creativity with a view to driving the economy forwards in line with the Government brand ‘Creative Britain’ (2011; p.22), however, I wonder if it is not possible to accept that there may be genuine creativity and inspiration within this marketised ideology. Our capitalist society is impossible to ignore, and although I regret the situation, I believe that a rise in the success of creative industries may be giving kudos to the public perception of creativity as it is seen as much more than simply being ‘arty’.

In conclusion, Craft’s analysis of education futures hinges on the growing importance of creativity within schools. This is a creativity that is cross curricular, all encompassing and inspirational. An asset that lends us our innately human character and which differentiates us from the machines that will become evermore present in our lives.

Furedi (2009)

Furedi (2009) focuses on the key concept that ‘adults have become estranged from the task of taking responsibility of the younger generation.’ (2009; 3). He ascertains that adults are not taking responsibility for the education of the younger generation. Collectively these adults are caught up in a cycle of blame; teachers and governments blaming parents for poor discipline (2009; 3), parents in turn blaming teachers and undermining their authority (2009; 4) , and governments swinging between polemic viewpoints both blaming parents and calling for their help (2009 call for satisfaction ratings and Lord Adonis’ heralding of pushy parents, p.4) with regard to the current ‘issues’ in education.

Furedi calls for ‘an inter-generational conversation’, interaction between students and adults to solve these vaguely mentioned issues with the education system. This appeal for student voice is encouraging, through asking students for their opinion they are automatically taking responsibility for their own education. This personal investment increases their autonomy and opportunity for engagement. Furedi criticizes children for their inability to communicate coherently with adults (2009; 3), through this delegation of shared responsibility students would become more conversive and open with other adults.

Furthermore, Furedi calls for greater collaboration between the ‘adults’ in this scenario. Claiming that there is ‘a retreat of adult authority’ (2009; p.5) which is not often (but he insinuates, should be) linked to an issue in education. Whilst agreeing that enhanced collaboration between parents and teachers would be of great benefit to student education, I believe that it is the lack of collaboration or understanding of where responsibility lies that forms the basis of his premise of underlying issues in education. For example; when disciplining a child at school the teacher might receive unbridled support from one parent where as another parent’s indignation would undermine the authority demonstrated. Once the student sees this, discipline becomes difficult to maintain.

Where my opinions differ to Furedi’s is with his symptom/cause argument outlined in p. 7. Here Furedi questions our approach to education reform, maintaining that we are treating the symptoms of a problem rather than a cause (which for Furedi, is lack of adult authority). I believe that the reasons for current education reform extend far beyond this; they stem from a model of education that is no longer suited to our globally connected world. Furthermore, I shy away from Furedi’s model of adults as authority figures (2009; 7). This authoritarian, semi-totalitarian response to education conflicts contrasts and undermines his comment pro inter-generational interaction.

Whilst I agree with Furedi that collaboration between adults in all the spheres of education is key to reforming the system, I struggle to place the blame solely on a lack (or perceived lack) of adult authority. There are several questions that we need to pose with regard to educational reform; students and young people should be as involved with this decision making process. We have not shirked our adult responsibility; we are merely opening the discussion to inter-generational levels.

 

Moving forward; ways of creating change

Collaboration is the key. Reflecting on these critiques some weeks after I wrote them it seems to me that collaboration is needed between those adults who are deemed to have shirked responsibility and the children for whom we are making these changed. This idea links clearly to the voices of the future topic. We need to flatten hierarchies in order to create a living dialogic space for change (Chappell and Craft).

Craft’s ideas surrounding creativity and in particular her drive for a wise humanising creativity connect well with the ideas of community cohesion, deriving from Eastern processes for creativity.

I hope that we can drive towards a progressive change; accounting for the world we live in currently whilst catering for the possible future. I firmly believe that greater community integration and identifying a school ethos is key to driving towards a clear future vision.

Ultimately I would place myself on the progressive side of the continuum. I do believe in caution and research before fully jumping on the latest educational bandwagon, however, I enjoy experimentation in the classroom and believe that students appreciate the opportunity to try new styles of activity or learning (as long as they don’t feel like constant guinea pigs!).

I identify progressive ideologies as those that are akin to 21st Century Learning. Learning that is personalised, student-centred, global in outlook, multi-disciplinary, creative and which includes exposure to appropriate us of technology to enhance and augment learning. I find Furedi’s view on adult authority as the downfall  of the education system as stagnant; whilst discipline and respect are important in schools, a progressive move towards an inclusion of student voice, as seen in the schools in Topic 7 is much more ‘respectful’ in my view.

Whilst firmly positioning myself on the progressive side of the line, I would be cautious in enforcing a progressive viewpoint upon all teachers. Variety of teachers is essential in any establishment as we know that not all people learn in the same way, exposure to  a wide range of teaching styles is a wonderful way to teach cohesion and the ability to work well with others.

Topic 7 – Reflective Portfolio

Voices of the future

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This picture was taken at EPIC, The Entrepreneurship Precinct and Innovation Centre in Christchurch, New Zealand. This trip was part of our Inquiry; the topic of entrepreneurship was almost entirely student lead. (You can read the student write up of their trip here.)

Here students wrote their thoughts on the brainstorming chalkboard in the main entranceway. Their thoughts were reflective, coherent and insightful.

Maybe, as the future, students opinions should be held in higher esteem. Who should drive education design in the future?

Student-lead schools

This week’s article by Fielding (2011) introduces two examples of schools that were run by a student controlled council. Students were involved fully in meetings and decision-making processes regarding the everyday running of the school as well as the details of their own learning.

Here are my reflections written after reading Fielding’s article:

Ultimately Fielding challenges the hierarchical organisation of schooling institutions. These institutions follow a market led style of democracy, which is ‘handmaiden to the economy’. He critiques the focus on the outcomes of education individually in terms of ‘what job can I do’ and collectively as ‘how can we use each other to do well’. The type of inclusive ‘classical’ democracy that he champions caused me to think of “wise, humanising democracy!’ where the focus is on how to become better individuals who contribute to a better community of people.

I found his notion of democracy in schools very interesting, as I suppose
I’ve always fallen in the TINA (There Is No Alternative) camp. I’ve never questioned what occurs within schools in terms of democracy and student voice. Like many, my concept of student voice has always focussed upon the dreaded role of Student Reps. Even in university we are asked to become Student Reps, I remember the e-mail at the start of this course! In school my experience is similar to Kristen’s; student council meetings tend to focus around tuck shops, school dinners, play time, homework and choice of subjects! These ideas are often swept under the rug and eyes rolled – every so often ideas get through about new sports kit or a piece of play equipment to fundraise for. Perhaps the recurring ideas of homework and autonomy should be given more kudos as they are in the two example institutions mentioned in Fielding’s work.

I really like the way in which students can elect their subjects and areas of interest; surely this would lead to far greater engagement. I also liked the way in which Epping House School valued those who took a ‘community service’ approach to their free time, as this is a very important lesson and a crucial part of becoming a community. Another challenge that I agree with is the use of vertical groupings; students learning according to their interests rather than age. I also recognised Bloom’s school’s use of a type of Project Based Learning and (what are now called) Learning Celebrations to showcase student work, if you’ve seen Most Likely to Succeed you will recognise a resurgence in this trend!

Like you all, I find it really difficult to imagine how whole school councils are run, I’ve worked in schools of just 200 pupils and even though this is a small school, I struggle to imagine how everyone would feel as though their voice were truly being heard. Another challenge that I found a little harder to swallow was a challenge to the use of competition and rewards in schools. Bloom ascertains that a fear of failure (through competition) and a fear of punishment (through rewards and sanctions) limits student success. I can see the logic in these arguments, but see that the school also uses meeting time to ‘celebrate’ achievement, which would be a little rotten if you hadn’t been deemed to have ‘achieved’.

I’ve recently worked in a school without a reward and sanction system and am not convinced it worked; perhaps this is because the school was very Market-Led, to the point of seeing parents as customers! So in my experience children in this market driven environment needed a reward; again I’d be interested to see the intrinsic community driven goal for success in action.

We were asked to compare Fielding’s article to Robinson’s (2015) work. My thoughts on Robinson’s article include how I could instigate the change he mentions in a real life context:

Here Robinson isn’t raising an ‘instead of’ opinion to the idea of School Meetings highlighted in Fielding’s work, he is articulating a different view of student voice, although one can draw comparisons or areas of similarity in which the two concepts overlap a little. Robinson’s concept highlights our intrinsic curiosity and innate ability to learn. His ‘back to the drawing board’ approach suggests a visit to a local EYFS centre to witness how learning, play and curiosity interlink. But how does this connect with the view of student voice? Robinson’s version of student voice focuses heavily around the idea of personalisation.

To me this isn’t differentiation, it’s not really about offering a selection of tasks (although in a classroom this is often the most practical way) it’s about allowing students to learn through their own passions and interests. I suppose it’s sort of like one long Genius Hour. Robinson advocates allowing students to try as much as possible, so that they learn as much as possible about who they are and how they are made up. Key to the success of this idea is knowing students well and providing opportunities for student-led learning projects. How would I integrate this into my classroom?

1. Offering choices within a task and open opportunities for assessment.
I think I’ve spoken before about the success of a “Great Events” Inquiry that was part of a history lesson sequence last year. Students (Year 7) were asked to choose any historical event that had an impact on people then, people now and people in the future. They had 25 minutes to present their findings however they pleased, their classmates would mark their ‘seminar’ session for how interesting/engaging/factual and memorable it was. Students blew me away with the variety of their presentations; Henry VIII’s divorce and excommunication from the Catholic church was demonstrated through a student choreographed Tudor Dance, 9/11 was reported as a news bulletin (filmed at home with use of a green screen), the sinking of the Titanic was shown through the use of Lego Stop-Motion animation as was the discovery of penicillin. Some students ran a quiz, others taught the class through an information treasure hunt in the playground. Their lessons were wonderful, and completely autonomous. Most of their learning took place at home; they used lessons to collate information and were completely on task. This was an awesome unit, and I’d love to run more sequences like this.

2. Spending time with students at lunch/before school starts.
I always try to use my lunch duties and break duties to engage with students – to ask questions and be sure to follow-up conversations if they have an important rugby/netball/tennis match or performance at the weekend. I would like to do more of this, taking time to get to know students out of the classroom context, and to show a more active interest in their lives.

3. Run a club/hobby session/activity that interests me and will hopefully interest students. I usually dread the activity forms that come around asking what sessions I’ll run for the year! When I taught French/Spanish I was always co-erced into doing extra language support, which just felt like more work, instead I’d love to make more of an effort to run an activity that I’m passionate about outside of work, that might allow students to try something new, and potentially discover one of their interests. 

Comparing the two texts in retrospect it seems that Robinson’s ideas are a little less concrete, Fielding’s views on Student Voice are more explicit with the children having direct control over the structure of their school and their education. Robinson’s ideas are a little less concrete in terms of research and examples.

Robinson’s views on student voice focus less on the school system as such and more on the personalisation of learning offering students greater autonomy and opportunities to explore. This notion of student choice is echoed through Fielding’s work and his two case studies; one of the greatest changes is the ability to elect subjects and interests.

Committee-led schools

Chappell and Craft (2011) discuss dialogic spaces and the potential for a community voice to drive change in schools. Together they call for;

“a creative learning conversation is the ongoing process without forced closure of those in roles of university academic, teachers, artists, students co-participatively researching and developing knowledge of their ‘lived space’ together.” (Chappell and Craft, 2011: 364)

They call for an overhaul of the ‘traditional lethargy’ in schools through flattening out the hierarchies that determine the future of education and opening up a space for more people to have their say.

They refer to two Devon based projects that have attempted to open up these dialogic spaces; Dance Partners for Creativity and Aspire.

Much like Fielding; Craft and Chappell call for a change from the marketised and performative focus of education towards a more holistic, humanising focus. A move away from solely judging pupil’s attainment and a focus more on the development of wise people.

Aspire takes an Inquiry question based approach to education reform; asking parents, students and teachers questions such as “How is deeper learning fostered?” and “How can homework be more effective?”. They then use evidence based research to drive change. Their system encourages leadership, participation and co-operation.

This approach calls to mind Furedi’s reasoning that adults need to work together for the benefit of the school; allowing students into the decision-making process should only act to encourage more thoughtful reform.

These approaches instigate grass-roots change rather than a call from above for reform within schools. I suppose that this would lend authenticity and purpose to change and would appeal to staff and students alike through valuing their opinion.

 

Conclusion

These three articles have one commonality: change from the bottom up. Perhaps LEA and Government may introduce ‘suggested reforms’ which could be picked by staff and students alike?

I suppose in some ways (when looked upon positively) this could be an affordance of acadamisation. However, from many points of view, the drive towards academies in the UK is a continuation of our marketised notion of education.

In a recent conversation with a group of Year 11 leavers I asked them what school had done for them; “School is a place where you are compared to others around you and told that you are not the best; it’s a ranking system for life” was one of the answers I received from a very disenchanted young woman. She lit up speaking about art and subjects where she was allowed to create, experiment and be herself. Surely these young people should be given the chance to make education so much more than what it currently is?

 

Topic 6 – Reflective portfolio

Sustainable Education

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This picture was taken mid-walk over the cliffs in Bude.

I often think of the sea’s awesome power and schemes such as the one proposed for Swansea to harness the power of the tide for electricity. If you were to turn around at this point on the cliff you would see many wind turbines dotted around on the horizon.

It’s hard to ignore the natural beauty of the North Cornish coast, look closely however, and you’ll see plastic bottles littering the coast line. Without trains or significant bus links the country lanes are clogged with cars. Our recycling facilities are limited and all of this combines to make me feel a little at odds with the idyll I bear witness to in my surroundings.

Feeling a little uncomfortable

I’ve mentioned in posts before about the tension I experience between a capitalist, neoliberal economy based education and that of a more holistic, wise, humanising, global-centred education. Coming from a small family business, yet with experience travelling and living in many other countries I feel as though I can see both sides of the coin all too clearly. I’m not sure there’s a balance between the two.

There’s little doubt that our current carbon-fuelled lifestyle is unsustainable, a compromise between our past and future lives isn’t a possibility in reality.

I found all too much familiarity with this, quoted in Matthewman and Morgan (2013)

‘‘I have not been able to find a single source that is against ‘sustainability’. Greenpeace is in favour, George Bush Jr. and Sr. are, the World Bank and its chairman (a prime warmonger on Iraq) are, the Pope is, my son Arno is, the rubber tappers in the Brazilian Amazon forest are, Bill Gates is, the labour unions are. All are presumably concerned about the long-term socioenvironmental survival of (parts of) humanity; most just keep doing business as usual’’ (Swyngedouw, 2007: 207)

I recognise this on a political and economic level but also a very personal level. Although I’m concerned for the environment and make sure to recycle and reuse where possible, I don’t cycle as much as I should and I certainly form part of the purchasing economy, buying unnecessary goods. So how can I stop? How do I relearn my behaviours?

 

It seems to me that this is what education needs to do. We need to relearn; as Stephen Stirling points out in numerous ways, previous initiatives to ‘add on’ Education for Sustainability into the curriculum haven’t worked. We need to reboot and create, what Stirling terms, a Sustainable Education. Move away from education to create workers to drive the carbon economy and move towards creating free thinkers and problem solvers who are aware of global issues and their responsibilities.

Ellen MacArthur’s Circular Economy suggests a means to reforming the economy; design with a purpose to reuse and last. She speaks emphatically about engaging students in the design process; not only will they benefit most from a positive post-carbon future, but they are not as tainted or influenced by past ideas and won’t be borrowing as heavily from ideas (the Used Future).

Creating Change and Sustainable Education

Stirling outlines two approaches to Sustainable Education; the first is more of a gung-ho approach, teaching somewhat systematically and persuasively to drive change through instruction. The second is more ‘holistic’, and encompasses a more learner-centric focus. Stirling dubs the second method as ‘idealist’ and although this would be my preferred method, Stirling makes the case that there is not time to teach in this manner of discovery. We need to feel more urgency and ensure that a start is made; perhaps shifting towards the second method as time goes by.

Personally, I understand Stirling’s call for urgency, but feel that a blended method would be most beneficial. Instructing children in the bare facts and showing them how to start making changes in their lives whilst including opportunities for experimentation and discovery.

Institutions such as Schumacher College and Embercombe offer alternative education for children and adults. A back-to-nature approach pervades these establishments. We need to combine these environmentally focused approaches with a vision of a sustainable economy.  These forward thinking institutions are one end of the extreme, but surely it isn’t realistic to expect this of all schools?

After my Instagram picture went out on Twitter I received a message from a former colleague who mentioned that their secondary school had this year introduced a ‘Sustainability Course’. Non-compulsory, but still encouraging.

Online Feedback

A vision for schools

So how would I introduce Sustainable Education? Matthewson and Morgan’s call for an integrated curriculum taps into a passion of mine. I believe in far greater cross curricular links and collaboration breaking down the segregation of subjects. There are many reasons for my views on the benefits of a connected curriculum, but principally I believe that the rigid timetable and it’s significance symbolically for pedagogy is one of the biggest barriers to envisioning education reform.

Through integrated curriculums we can introduce projects that inspire and change; working together as an educational community and a local community to create real learning experiences for students.

In terms of Sterling’s two approaches; as mentioned above a blended approach would suit best, offering distinct instruction along with opportunities for a more holistic learning based approach.

Conclusion

I hope that the education reforms that are slowly occurring throughout schools as they rebuke the performativity asked of them include an approach to create a Sustainable Education. The crux and the difficulty will be to unlearn our consumerist tendencies and also to create a sustainable economy that provides jobs and work whilst benefitting the environment. That sounds like an insurmountable task! However, taking small steps and making small changes is just taking too long. We need to shake up the system.

Reflective Portfolio – Topic 5

Community Partnership and pedagogy

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Communities in action

 

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This picture comes from a charity afternoon tea within my local community. Children played alongside great-grandparents. Friends, parents of friends and grand-parents of friends moved around the room socialising. Whilst away I was fortunate to feel part of a community in a sense; however, growing up in an isolated Cornish community does spoil you. I feel privileged to be part of something far bigger than I am. To know families, legends and history from your local area.
What impact can the community have on education? Well, I think that volunteer fundraising through “Friends of….. School” can have a huge impact. Parental involvement in the wider school community can surely be a positive – a sense of investment in a community. Grandparents coming to read and join in with activities has also proved to be very beneficial.

 

Furedi’s comments on building back trust between parents, teachers and local authorities rings true to me. We must try to involve parents and local artists and businesses positively, and proactively in school life.

 

Artist/teacher partnerships

An unfamiliar topic this week that I’d had very little experience of previously. Whilst watching the videos of the Devon Carousel projects I really wanted to join in with the hands-on learning and fun that was going on.

 

I can see how tensions between artists and teachers might arise as professionals foster different primary concerns within the classroom. A teacher might, for example be primarily concerned with outcomes, behaviour and classroom management whereas the artist may be more concerned with the creative process.

 

Varying teaching approaches
Teachers Artists
Concerned with curriculum exams and learning outcomes Concerned with creativity
Feel the need to prepare the student Feel less responsible for learning
Health and safety – classroom management Focus on the processes
Scaffolding learning to ensure all work is interesting

 

Below are comments I made after reading and viewing the footage of the Carousel Project and reading about DPC:

 

Rolfe interprets Wenger’s conceptualisations about communities of practice as differing to usual social networks because although social relations are formed, it is around the central activity.

 

The activities videoed and documented on the Carousel website highlight this aspect of communities of practice – all of the adults; be they artists, teachers or parents are engaged in a central activity. Through the videos it  is nigh impossible to say who exactly is leading the creative activity – those ‘leaders’ are just as engaged and hands-on as other adults and there are high levels of engagement between adults and children.

 

Rolfe (2011) identifies 3 dimensions “by which practice is the source of coherence of a community”.

  1. mutual engagement of participants (included and engaged)
  2. Joint enterprise – mutual accountability – pushes practice forwards
  3. A shared repertoire – shared histories of engagement

 

The Carousel Project can be viewed through all three of these dimensions.

  1. The mutual engagement is evident, parents, artists and children are all included and engaged in the activities. There is a real sense of exploration and experimentation as children and parents push creative boundaries.
  2. The joint enterprise is clear too as artists, educators and parents share a mutual accountability for the success of the sessions. Artists and educators co-ordinate engaging and provocative sessions, parents are accountable for their own enthusiasm and willingness to experiment and participate with the session and their child
  3. The shared repertoire – this shared history of engagement builds as relationships build. Between artists and educators the reflection demonstrated at the end of the video showed this growing history; as these shared experiences accumulated their shared knowledge and experience lead to improving and refining their shared practice.

 

Rolfe (2011) states that communities of practice provide influence and energy that challenge and transform.  Upon viewing these films, the energy and enthusiasm was infectious and my overwhelming opinion was that I wanted to have a go! I do think that this style of discovery, an understanding and honing of the senses, the openness and flexibility demonstrated amongst those working in the project truly does have the power to challenge and transform.

 

Relatable Personal Experience

 

Having not been part of a project like this myself, I was immediately drawn to think about a former colleague who, as an actress, artist and teacher would have experience in this area. I contacted her via Twitter to ask about her experiences.

My colleague (@ginnippi) talked of her experience in a community project following the earthquakes in Christchurch.

 Your study is right in my ball park.  I have worked on many projects as a teacher, an actor and as an artist in residence.  Most of my work in applied theatre is this kind of work.  (My masters is in App Theatre)

 After the earthquakes I did a big project with UNESCO and Auckland Uni. My professor and I created a piece of theatre that was then co-created in schools. The piece was about hope and gave students (and teachers) space to talk about their worry and hope.

 

This sounded wonderful, and a great use of creative arts to assist in rebuilding community spirit.

In trying to understand the possible tensions present between artist and teacher I found myself trying to think of situations where I’ve taken an active role, yet a backwards step. The closest personal experience is perhaps being manager of a sports team with a non-teaching coach. There are certainly tensions between my role as a netball enthusiast and teacher here. Whilst wanting the students to succeed, I also wanted them to understand the game and come up with their own game play.  As Chappell mentions there is a fine line between chaos and creativity, and sometimes the teacher in us finds it tricky to let go.

There’s little doubt that involving ‘outside’ people in schools can be hugely beneficial, but again, I’ve become sceptical of who. What might organisations want in return?

The importance of community

Working in post-quake Christchurch I’ve witnessed the incredible community spirit shown throughout the city and the positive impact of it. Projects such as GAP Filler who have endeavoured to rebuild the city with ideas like ‘Dance Mat’ the mini games, shared gardens, city centre farmers markets and many other initiatives. The Arts community, from independent theatres to local artists, mural painters and sculptors were actively involved in drawing people back into the city centre as well as helping people come to terms with what had happened.

Furedi also mentions the importance of community cohesion; the necessity of parent, teacher and government/policy makers all working together for the future of education. I think that this links to Inayatullah’s concept of the ‘Alternative Future’. Through working together to identify alternative futures we can create a cohesive vision for a successful move forward.

 

Confronto

The Zax
Dr. Seuss’s the Zax.

When multiple layers of people get involved in organising change it’s natural to encounter conflict, however, as Vea Vecchi explains, the concept of conflict doesn’t have to be negative. ‘Confronto’ in Reggio Emilio environments can provide opportunities for discussion and highlights the differing priorities between parties.

Often a stubbornness can overrule change and results in stagnation; we need to ensure that we are in favour of change, of moving forwards towards a coherent vision lest we be taken over and left behind. Opening up to small changes and documented experimentation could help with this. Trialling ideas in one or two classes before whole school adoption for example is cost and time effective.

 Questions? 

How to go about getting busy parents involved in school life?

How to avoid feelings of guilt amongst parents who’s children attend 2 or 3 different schools, or who work long hours and simply don’t have time to give to coaching/reading etc.?

How to pay for DBS checks? Volunteer ones?

How to mediate conflict – who should be chairperson? Is this what Governors should be doing? I think it’s much greater than a board of governors.

How might giving children a say in their school improve their work? Would they feel more pride?

How to get local businesses and artists involved? What’s in it for them? Would it be purely generosity, or is there a way schools can reciprocate the work?

How to work in partnership with other organisations? Could you build inter-school communities?

Fostering sense of community with those who are not geographically close? Could this be possible through technology and what might the benefits be?

 

Reflective Portfolio – Topic 3

Changing Childhoods in a Digital World

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This was one of my very active learners. He would probably never describe himself as creative or techy. He wasn’t a child who spent much time gaming or online; he’d rather be outside playing sport. Yet he learnt very well with technology and showed himself to be creative, imaginative and thoughtful and demonstrated great maths skills in this ‘Design a House’ unit.

The image of every child in today’s world being glued to a screen is unjust and misrepresentative. One of my friends said to me how sad it was that children wouldn’t know a childhood like ours, and this caused me to become quite defensive. They wouldn’t; but we didn’t have a childhood like our parents, things change.

This week’s reflection asks whether this current generation of children are empowered by their digital worlds, or whether they need cocooning from them.

How have we changed?

In her 2012 work, Childhood in a Digital Age, Anna Craft discusses the empowered generation of young people that we have before us. It’s worth noting that ‘childhood’ is a fairly modern notion; traditionally children worked as soon as they were able.

Craft suggests that the type of Enid Blyton-esque childhood that we imagine is a product of cocooning post WW2. I can imagine it happening; many fatherless children returning from their refugee homestays, what family wouldn’t want to protect and reinforce the innocence of their child after those atrocities?

This cocooning, combined with the advent of the Welfare State, lead to feelings of comfort. This generation then enjoyed the post war economic boom; employment was easy to find, higher education was free, house prices were achievable. This is no longer the case.

Britain today is very different to the Britain of the 1950s; we’re in a period of rapid change. Financially, socially, medically, politically, religiously and environmentally the entire world is on tenterhooks. We’re at a cross roads that require us to be globally minded problem solvers. Able to handle the humanitarian crises that are and will continue to affect us, able to discuss increasingly tricky ethical questions about stem cell research and artificial intelligence.

The world is very different, and so are its children.

How are today’s children different?

The children of today are:

  • Globally connected through the Internet, aware of global events, trends, music and opinions.
  • Duplicitous – children today most likely foster an online persona, they may market their lifestyles online.
  • Collaborators – children today share. They share how to reach the next level in a game via YouTube clips, they share their knowledge and their opinions.
  • Knowledge Makers – these children create content, not just consume it.
  • Information Seekers – the instant gratification of finding out something straight away. These students have the world at their fingertips; be it what’s on later that night, what their homework was, how to cheat on their video game or the world news.

Increased agency, a byproduct?

Craft (2012) argues that this shift has taken children from cocooned to enabled. I agree to an extent that children are certainly more empowered through their use of technology, but they need to learn research and investigation skills to be truly self-directed and driven learners.

Craft introduces the 4 P’s of technology, that it should afford:

  • Plurality
  • Playfulness
  • Participation and
  • Possibilities

Take a tablet such as an iPad, the myriad of apps and usages of the iPad mean that Plurality is met.

From the strategic and educational to the silly yet addictive the iPad is a very playful tool, allowing individual or world wide play.

Participation in person or online is afforded as children and adults can share with people next to them or with others around the world.

Possibilities, from merely allowing basic web-browsing to composing music the iPad.

But do these 4P’s provide agency in an educational context? Although these Digital Natives may know very well how to use computers and other devices, I’m not sure whether they could use them educationally without instruction; be it from a teacher or a peer.

Mitra’s experiments in India seem to disprove this however, showing that without explicit instruction children can teach themselves not only how to use a computer confidently, but also how to speak English and even advanced Biology.

So maybe I’m wrong? Perhaps it’s our demand for instantaneous results that leads us to believe that children can’t do a task without instruction? Maybe they need to experiment and investigate together.

The picture for this Topic was taken in a maths lesson where the students used SketchUp for the first time to design a house. Upon reflection; I had very limited experience with the software so couldn’t offer much in the way of instruction but the students took the work home, attempted to use it and came back able to help each other. I’d seen this in action, so why the assumption that children NEED instruction? Maybe I’m frightened of becoming superfluous? These are amongst the tensions (along side safety online) that Craft points out in her 2010 debate.

I don’t think that’s the case, well I’d like not to think so! There will always be students who need guidelines and parameters and although they need to foster a more inquisitive, explorative attitude; I can help them to do this.

Overall, we need to allow for this exploration, experimentation and Possibility Thinking.

Reflective Portfolio – Topic 2

Creativity and Education Futures

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This is my little brother, he’s shooting a lookbook for a gift-ware catalogue. He’s noticing light, adjusting products incrementally and searching for the perfect picture.

He never enjoyed school; he loved having friends, playing sport and tormenting teachers through use of universal remote controls. He is one of the most hard-working, intelligent, funny and creative individuals I know. He bloomed as soon as he left school and started working, finding a passion for web-design, programming and product photography in the gift-ware industry. He’s brilliant (I am biased). Although his teachers would have recognised his intelligence, I wonder how many would have seen his creativity; his eye for detail, design and light?

My reflection this week is how can we recognise these skills and foster them in schools?

Creativity

I found defining creativity incredibly tricky; through the online forums assumptions I had such as ‘creativity is in the mind’ were put to the test. Why is it in the mind? Creativity in dance is often organic and expressed purely by parts of the body. It seems as though I’m not the only one to struggle to define and discover what creativity is. Is it an original idea? Well, Boden would disagree, saying that for some people coming up with an idea that may be out there, but which is new to them IS creativity.

Through this weeks lectures we saw how research has moved from the quantitative study of creativity to the qualitative. Our perceptions of creativity over time have changed, beyond ideas of divine inspiration, through psychological investigation of the individual to a recognition that groups of people can demonstrate a ‘democratic’ creativity.

I particularly related to Wallas’ 4 stage model of creativity, the Cognitive Model which is a very popular theory (summarised in my own words below). It was famously followed by Hudsen who linked the notion to convergent and divergent thought (Divergent thinking – coming up with a problem or question, Divergent thinking – the ability to solve the problem and come up with a solution).

  1. Seed of idea
  2. Incubate idea in sub-conscious
  3. Illumination into conscious mind
  4. Then verification in your thoughts

Assessing and testing creativity

How can we test and assess creativity? There’ve been a number of approaches;

  1. Psychometric – still fairly well regarded.
  2. Humanist – believing that creativity comes from a set of ‘ideal’ personal conditions within the individual. This is not a very popular notion as many people deemed to be very creative work in very unlikely, and unideal situation where there needs are not met.
  3. Pragmatic approaches – taking a more pragmatic route through mind-mapping, brainstorming or concepts such as De Bono’s six hats.
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    De Bono’s Six Thinking Hats – focus on the green.

     

  4.  Social and Personality based approaches – identifying the characteristics of ‘creative sorts’, sensitive, risk-taking, determined, passionate sorts. I wonder if there might be a conflict there?
  5. Confluence – This is the approach that takes into account all of the above. Appreciating the confluence of social, personality, pragmatic, humanist and psychometric elements of creativity.

 

Through looking at the above we can see a shift between data based and human based approaches to viewing creativity.

Likewise, research on highly creative people (Big or Pro-C) has altered to encompass mini-c creativity (Craft).

Is the notion of mini-c creativity enough to help us recognise creativity in schools?

This week’s readings of Boden (1990) and Beghetto and Kaufman (2007) drew together thoughts and concepts surrounding creativity.

I found affinity with the concept of mini-c; the part of creativity that is for you – your own personal development. The opportunity to hone your skills before advancing to little-c and perhaps before showing other people what you can achieve.

I really liked the way in which the concept of mini-c was related to the classroom, allowing students to investigate many avenues and try new things without fear of failure or judgement.

Beghetto & Kaufman relate learning to creativity saying that it allows us to internalise and come up with new concepts around an idea. This links to Boden’s concept of Exploration Creativity. I think that most useful creativity would stem from this as it explores the depth of what we know.

I agree strongly with the emphasis Beghetto & Kaufman put on researching the lesser or early stages of creativity rather that the more advanced stages and think it of great value in terms of education. Their work on the Goldilocks Principle highlighted to me the importance of finding balance in the praise given to students and I’ll certainly pay attention to the praise I give to students.

Through offering opportunities, encouraging, suggesting improvements, and praising correctly I believe that we can foster previously undiscovered creativity in the classroom.

 

Conflicts and tensions

This is the first exposure I’ve had to the idea of marketised creativity and it triggered feelings of guilt. Are we moving towards a performative evaluation of creativity? Are we now valuing creativity because of the economic boom in creative industries?
It’s hard to separate our culture of wealth, consumerism and a sort of western greet and the notion of ‘success’ determined my possession from our notion of education. Do we teach children so that they’re best prepared to get the best job and earn the  most money?

Coming from a family with a successful family business, I’ve found it very hard to be objective considering the notion of marketised creativity and this has been one of the biggest struggles I’ve encountered on the course. Fostering an appreciation of more holistic education…