Monday, September 16, 2013

A new renaissance

Last week I found this article via twitter that gathered the opinions of a variety of people (including one of the Muppets). They were all asked what the one tangible idea about education they felt was worth spreading. Their answers were interesting to read and ranged from removing homework, to differentiation, to teacher training to university graduation.

The university opinion stuck in my mind for a couple of reasons - (i) I believe that this has a 'tail wags the dog' effect on education where many reform movements get stifled by the time they reach the stage of higher education because of the requirements to enter places such as Universities. If students need to be ranked in order to get into these places then society has generally fallen back on the only way they know how to do this - through summative testing. There seems to be a slow push towards a more formative approach over the past 10 years (give or take) with some education systems placing greater emphasis on the year (or in some cases years) long work of students. Some higher education institutions also now place greater value on 'non-academic' (for use of a better word at 6am in the morning!) entrance qualifications, such as service programs. Others are moving away from exam-based entrance results, preferring to observe a larger snapshot of student work through alternative reporting tools, such as portfolios. This is generally a positive move in my opinion.
(ii) I read a post just this morning on a friends blog where she talked about a university revolution - where universities face transformations over the next 20 years. You can read more about it here.

Have a read through the list of ideas here and see which ones interest you the most. Whichever you choose, it appears that we are approaching or are already in a renaissance period of education, where interest is renewed and many ideas are generated. These periods can be confusing for education practitioners due to the large amounts of new information available to them. They have to decide where they lie in terms of these new perspectives and practices. But it is not only teachers - and this is what makes it so difficult. If there is an Art renaissance then the artists themselves are redefining what art means and the consumers do just that - consume. This has an affect on the period at the time but doesn't really impact on those people's (the consumers) day to day lives. But in education our students aren't merely consumers - they are active builders of the renaissance. What happens every day can affect them for their entire life. They have years to experience the development of Impressionism but they only get one year of Grade Five. So we have to remind ourselves that we're not only going through these changes ourselves, but that our actions also impact the lives of many students, parents, friends - and everyone has an opinion.

So renaissance periods can be difficult times. But they're also very exciting.

Photo Credit: Prabhu B Doss via Compfight cc

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