There’s more to education than spelling and numbers November 4, 2014Posted by Editor21C in Directions in Education, Primary Education, Secondary Education.
Tags: curriculum, democracy and education, holistic education, national curriculum, values education
from Associate Professor Sue Roffey
Headlines in newspapers on a recent Monday morning said much of the curriculum review that has been welcomed across Australia. The removal of the four “general capabilities” from the curriculum is a travesty many are yet to recognise.
The four “general capabilities” are personal and social capability, critical and creative thinking, ethical understanding and intercultural understanding. Are thinking and creativity now considered irrelevant for education?
Research suggests these are critical skills for innovation, problem-solving, empathy, evaluation, knowledge application and mental health. These skills are also necessary for the promotion of a democratic society. Young people need to be able to think for themselves and make up their own minds about their values, who they become and what they do.
The reduced focus on personal and social capability also makes little sense. Relationships are not the soft and fluffy end of education; they are the central plank of how we learn and how well we live our lives. They determine our ability to contribute to both the world of work and society.
Confederation of British Industry director-general John Cridland says that over half of British firms are concerned about the self-management and resilience of school leavers, who must be better prepared for life outside the school gates.
Eton College headmaster Tony Little has expressed concern over the narrowing of the curriculum:
A sharp focus on performance is a good thing, but there is a great deal more to an effective and good education than jostling for position in a league table … Most of us as parents want our children to become capable adults, able to look after themselves and their own families, but we want them to be good citizens, too.
The US Department of Defence funded research leading to the Wingspread Declaration on School Connections, a document highlighting the need for a sense of belonging for effective education.
There is now a raft of Australian and international evidence for what constitutes authentic well-being for young people and how a focus on student well-being underpins universal learning outcomes, mental health for the vulnerable and pro-social behaviour. Healthy relationships with teachers, families and peers are integral to this.
Many of our young people are not learning the values and skills needed outside of school. Most teachers are doing a great job, despite the pressures on them to focus on test results. The evidence for the benefit of social and emotional learning in the curriculum is overwhelming. In the US a meta-analysis of 213 social and emotional learning programs showed that academic outcomes for participating students had an 11% improvement in academic skills compared to control groups.
It is hardly surprising that some of our most privileged and advantaged schools are taking student well-being – “learning to be” and “learning to live together” – seriously. Prestigious and successful schools such as Geelong Grammar, The Knox School and St Peters in Adelaide have a heavy focus on these attributes.
We need to go beyond the economic, rote-learning mindset, which is singularly concerned with the acquisition and regurgitation of facts. There is great concern that the race to the top in PISA rankings is undermining the education our children and our country really needs. What is the point of top marks in all subjects if you are unable to live a fulfilling life?
And what about valuing all of those children who are never going to be academic stars, but have other things to offer? Don’t they count?
Our education system is about the future of Australia, our democracy, our future mental health and our ability to contribute within our community. Relationships matter, resilience matters. Teachers, researchers and many parents know this, so why don’t the reviewers?
Sue Roffey is an adjunct associate professor in the School of Education at the University of Western Sydney, Australia. She is also Chair of Wellbeing Australia and co Lead Convenor of the Student Wellbeing Action Network which is part of the Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth. This article was originally published on The Conversation.
The power of technologies for conceptual change September 9, 2012Posted by Editor21C in Directions in Education, Primary Education, Secondary Education.
Tags: democracy and education, learning communities, learning theories, technology and education, values education
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from Dr Chwee Beng Lee
Conceptual change remains one of the most essential outcomes of learning. It is an intentional and constructive effort to bring about deep understanding. Conceptual change theories describe how people revise their conceptual frameworks and their belief systems as a result of cognitive perturbations.
In the past, conceptual change research tended to focus on the change of individuals’ conceptual frameworks, and relied on creating cognitive conflicts to achieve conceptual change. However, in recent years, researchers have raised issues of the motivational, affective, and contextual factors implicated in conceptual change (Gregoire, 2003; Murphy, 2007) and the importance of a sociocultural perspective in understanding conceptual change. There are also considerable efforts in discussing and exploring effective strategies to foster conceptual change.
Although conceptual change can be induced through strategies such as using structural alignment as analogical learning (Mason, 2004), collaborative reasoning, (Anderson et al., 2001; Clark et al., 2003), knowledge building (Scardamalia & Bereiter, 2006) and many other approaches, technology is increasingly playing a powerful and critical role in the process of not only fostering individual (Lee & Jonassen, 2012) but also social conceptual change.
Jonassen (in press) argues that conceptual change is more than a realignment or restructuring of ideas but rather, it results from interactions of minds with other minds in the world. With the exponential growth in online communities such as Facebook, learners’ ideas and conceptions are constantly exposed to the challenges posed by the community members or even others outside the community. The power of social media is fast altering the belief systems of individual and social groups. Mainstream media no longer plays a dominant role in disseminating information. On the other hand, social media is highly efficient in delivering the most updated information as well as influencing our belief systems as it has the affordances of multimodalities which mainstream media does not.
What is most intriguing about social media is that it has the power to achieve large scale and immediate conceptual change. Such change includes changes in conceptions of democracy, human rights and freedom of speech as they are defined among these social groups. In some Asian countries where governments were once considered unchallenged, ultimate authoritative bodies are now being constantly questioned for their roles, functions and actions in these virtual realities. The formation of online communities not only forms “group beliefs” or “social beliefs” but also influences one’s identity and belief systems. With this in mind, educators must acknowledge the power and influences of social media in changing the conceptions of individuals and social groups.
Instead of relying on instructions and technologies that may foster the individual’s conceptual framework, there is a more urgent need to explore ways to integrate social media into classrooms for positive individual and social change in conceptions, as well as belief systems. However, this may be a daunting task, as conceptual change is a highly complex process and we have yet to fully understand the affordances of technologies for deep learning, let alone the complexities involved in propelling change among social groups. Possible research questions that deserve our attention may include: what are the roles of social media in fostering individual as well as social conceptual change? How do we capture and assess such changes? What kind of instructions can drive positive change?
References: Anderson, R. C., Nguyen-Jahiel, K., McNurlen, B., Archodidou, A., Kim, S. Y., Reznitskaya, A., Tillmanns, M., & Gilbert, L. . The snowball phenomenon: Spread of ways of talking and ways of thinking across groups of children. Cognition and Instruction, 19, 1-46. Clark, A. M., Anderson, R. C., Kuo, L. J., Kim, I. H., Archodidou, A., & Nguyen-Jahiel, K. . Collaborative reasoning: Expanding ways for children to talk and think in school. Educational Psychology Review, 15, 181-198. Gregoire, M. . Is it a challenge or a threat? A dual-process model of teachers’ cognition and appraisal processes during conceptual change. Educational Psychology Review, 15, 147-179. Jonassen, D. H. (In press). The impact of technology on conceptual change: Past and future. In C.B. Lee., & D.H. Jonassen (Eds.). Fostering Conceptual Change with Technologies. Cengage Learning. Lee, C. B., & Jonassen, D. H. (2012). An introduction: technologies for conceptual change. In C.B. Lee., & D.H. Jonassen (Eds.). Fostering Conceptual Change with Technologies. Cengage Learning. Mason, L. . Fostering understanding by structural alignment as a route to analogical learning. Instructional Science, 32, 293-318. Murphy, P. K. . The eye of the beholder: The interplay of social and cognitive components in change. Educational Psychologist, 42, 41-53. Scardamalia, M., & Bereiter, C. . Knowledge building: Theory, pedagogy, and technology. In R. K. Sawyer [Ed.], The Cambridge handbook of the learning sciences [pp. 97-118]. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.
Chwee Beng Lee is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Education at the University of Western Sydney, Australia, where she lectures in learning design and pedagogy in the Master of Teaching (Secondary) program. She joined UWS from the National Institute of Education, Singapore, at the beginning of 2012.