Destabilising the status quo


I recently bumped into a former colleague and briefly chatted about “A Curriculum for Excellence”.  My friend has responsibility for developing learning and teaching at his school and was telling me that the school are going to give every pupil comprehensive course support materials for each of their certificated subjects – once the course has been completed.  The teachers didn’t want to put it out before they taught the course as they wanted to “remain in control”.

For me it was a timely reminder about how much work is still to be done in terms of changing our approach to learning.

If we are going to change the way in which we work then perhaps we need to destabilise the status quo thereby freeing teachers to adopt different roles and engage learners in learning as opposed to absorbing information.

Keeping this in mind I wonder if David Eaglesham, the general secretary of the Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association, perhaps provides the catalyst when he said he doubted whether ACfE  could live up to its aims without financial input.

“It is almost inevitable to say it is the worst-resourced initiative we have ever had, because there is nothing there in the way of resources,” he said.
“It is not that people don’t want to do it, but if they don’t know what they are doing or have the resources to implement it, it could be disastrous.”

I agree that there is a need to provide resources but I wouldn’t provide them in the form that they have come in the past.  My alternative approach would be to create a virtual learning environment for every certificated course provided by the SQA.  This course could be accessed by students at a place and time of their choosing – I’d like to think GLOW could play an important role here.

I’ve been speaking to a number of my son’s friends who have just finished school and without exception they all said they would have welcomed the chance to access their entire course on-line.  That’s not to say that they didn’t want a teacher but that they wanted the teacher to work in a different way.

So what would be the outcome of such a step – surely it will replace one form of spoon-feeding with another? Well not according to my son’s friends who are now at university – the teacher would take on much more of a tutor’s role where they have use their tutor to expand and deepen their knowledge.  In so many ways this ties in with what Jerome Bruner was talking about yesterday when he said that educational systems were “too easily routinised” and that there were too few opportunities for students “share hypotheses”, “reflect upon alternatives ” or “reflect upon controversy”.

Bruner wants teachers to seek out “inter-subjectivity” (I think I prefer this term to inter-disciplinary) by contextualising their subject within the wider world – but how often do teachers manage to do this in the pressure to get through the content of a course.

Put it this way – there appears to be an appetite amongst young people for such a change.

3 thoughts on “Destabilising the status quo

  1. I’m not wanting to hog your blog Don, but as I’m thinking & writing about this a lot elsewhere – I can’t help but reply. Just as you use your blog as a learning log, I appear to be using it as a sounding board for my essay – hope you don’t mind?

    I have a few thoughts on this post. The first regards resources. I do empathise with David Eaglesham on this. This is a massive piece of reform, and instead of getting extra resources to support its implementation – we’re actually making savings! However, I do agree that the last thing we want is money being spent on buying/copying examplar materials. I believe that the best resources we as teachers could be given to support the implementation is extra time. Clearly we have our McCrone time etc for development work, but does it not follow that major change requires extra time? I would suggest that teachers should be trusted with some in-service days to work towards developing curricula for their schools. This could take the form of a stimulus session/discussion followed by one or two days of teachers managing their own time to work on this. The results could then be added to a wiki?

    In terms of VLE, in many ways this exists already – Scholar! The problem with VLE’s as you say is that they do spoon feed and also, they can become the equivalent of examplar materials. I get the impression that Scholar itself is not used as widely as it could be. I’ve written before about my own difficulties, and these were very common amongst teachers at the Scholar conference I attended last year (and these were the teachers keen enough to go to the conference!!). Heriot Watt themselves admitted that it wasn’t used as much as they’d expected.

    You suggest that pupils could use VLE’s in a University inspired way. The teacher takes on the role of a University tutor. I agree with you when you say that teachers need to explore different roles within their classes, however I read an interesting paper recently. In my efforts to read opposing views, I read a paper which very strongly argued against constructive/pupil led/investigative type teaching approaches using cognitive psychology research to support their argument. One section of this did resonate with me a little. This was the notion that University style learning can not necessarily be transferred to schools effectively. They argue that pupil learning needs to be led by the teacher in order to prepare them for managing their own learning at University, and we should not expect them to be able to do this before then.

    Finally, in the spirit of module 1 and professionalism, are we re-professionalising teaching if we allow change to be led by the appetites of young people?

    Just a few thoughts, which I must admit are largely for my own benefit – got to get my thoughts in order!!

  2. I thought you might be interested to know I have written two blog entries about school management in the last week or so. One about good management and one about bad.


  3. Think we all need to be prepared to lose control a bit and make it much more learner centred in rest of world customer focused.

    Glow could be that VLE – and content could arrive as we move along if we engage teachers in moving this forward – this collaborative approach is what we need across Scotland.

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