I have seen Scott McLeod’s #makeschoolsdifferent meme gradually spread over the last few months. It has been interesting reading the different ideas that people suggest. Even though I had been challenged, I didn’t feel the need to respond. When Steve Brophy tagged me in his contribution, my interest was piqued. However, it was the crude response from Greg Ashman and Tom Bennett on Twitter which really got me thinking. I don’t mind being wrong or having debate about education, but I cannot stand when people kill a discussion before it has even started.
So, stirred into action, here is my contribution:
- Homework is the answer to getting stuff done. Everyone has some piece of writing that influences them and leaves a mark. For me it was a piece written by Michael Carr-Gregg on educating boys. In it he makes a few points, but the point that stuck was that we should give less homework. Too often homework is decided by hours, rather than purpose. In addition to this, some feel that if they are not giving homework then they are not doing their job. There is little evidence that homework is at all helpful, especially in primary school. I think that if we are to have homework, it should be creative and passion based, rather than menial repetitive tasks.
- Arbituary word counts and set structures help students become better writing. I have yet to meet anyone who writes blogs using TEEL. When I write, I focus on why, rather than how I am going about it. I will never forget the lesson that Dr. John Wiltshire taught me in University. Worried about whether I was including the write stuff in the essay, he explained that the word essay derives from French in which it means ‘your say’. This has stuck with me. In addition to this, I think that it is important to celebrate the process, just as much as the product. Literacy is something that we continually do, not something done and dusted.
- Getting students to monotonously make their thinking visible turns them into better readers. How many adults do you know who use sticky notes or write endless notes in the books that they read? Those who come to mind are often either studying or reading with a particular purpose in mind. I am the first to encourage following up with narratives in the margin, but when this is forced, we risk turning the process into some sort of scientific surgery. Daniel Pennac touches on some of these issues in his book, The Rights of the Reader.
- Standardised tests provide meaningful feedback. I am not sure you will find anyone who will argue with you that feedback needs to be targeted, specific and timely. How then can there be any good achieved by providing students with feedback six months after the fact. In addition to that, how useful is it? I am with Jason Borton here in saying that tests like NAPLAN provide trend data at best. While if we are to believe Robert Randall, as he stated in The Age, that NAPLAN should be treated being just like any other day, the question remains why one random day is then broadcast on a website as a barometre for how schools are going. A point made by Adam Lavers on Episode 30 of 2 Regular Teachers.
- Presentation evenings and school newsletters constitute a dialogue. I left #GTASYD last year with the challenge: How might we engage parents in a cultural shift to make relationships and connections the focus of learning? From all my immersion work, I found that the story that came through was that parents were often told, but never actually engaged with. Instead of blaming parents for not turning up or getting involved, we need to make it irresistibly engaging for them to. A large part of this is encapsulated in what David Price calls ‘SOFT‘, that is a culture of sharing, openness, being free and trusting. If education is to truly change then parents need to be at the heart of.
When I think about each of these changes, they are based on my own experiences. I am not saying that this is the same for each school in every context. If you have something to add, a suggestion about how such changes could happen or a point of criticism and concern, then I would love to know. For one thing must never be forgotten, it takes a village.
I challenge Jon Andrews (@jca_1975), Eric Jensen (@jentzly), Riss Leung (@rissl), Ross Halliday (@FizzicalEd) and Bec Spink (@becspink)
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#makeschoolsdifferent by Aaron Davis is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.