And there ain't no man righteous, no not one. Bob Dylan
Does our focus on the “righteous pedagogies” in New Zealand undermine student learning outcomes?
A contemporary definition of ‘learning’ is a long term change in a person’s thinking and behaviour. But rarely do schools, teachers, and students assess such long term changes. At our best we focus on the “formica veneer” of learning, the short term outcomes of what has been learned, at worst we focus on “righteous pedagogies”.
My recent experience at the Learning@School08 conference means that I suspect that rather than looking at what we do to build changes in student long term memory, we tend to neglect memory altogether and shortcut to an educational focus on the “righteous pedagogies”.
At Learning@School08 I kept nudging up against a “pedagogical righteousness” ... that sense that as long as schools (and their edu_conference presentations) string together an educational mantra of words like;
personalisation, putting learners at the centre, New Zealand Curriculum 2007, 21st Century, authentic, inquiry, learning community, scaffolding, assessment for learning, collaboration, engagement, learning intentions, key competencies, evidence based practice, home school partnerships, wisdom and values
when they describe their programmes, they are somehow beyond reproach.
I reckon that this focus on a “righteous pedagogy” comes at the expense of a focus on the learner.
(Note to self: It is an enormous irony that Alton-Lee's Best Evidence Synthesis BES (and the teacher misinterpretation of the iterative nature of the ten characteristics of quality teaching) must shoulder some of the blame for this state of affairs)
This relentless referencing of constructivistic pedagogies (learning_theory) and associated jargon in the conference presentations by New Zealand schools is not matched by an equally relentless unpacking of what these terms might mean to students - nor by any clarity of how we can design learning activities to achieve them in school.
When I think about what is memorable about my learning experiences today I recall
- laughing over coffee with the sales manager for the publishing company of Science World9 and 10,
- watching the caregivers at the dementia centre wrestling a full size harp into a lounge filled with, residents waving leeks and, the smells of welsh rarebit baking. (St David’s Day celebrations dementia style),
- sending Nix a mobile phone photograph of Marilyn in full air,
- fighting off some seriously “outlet sale inflamed” shoppers to grab two cushion covers needed by the Magnet ( an easier task than my previous Magnet induced challenge of locating a place that dyes shoes in the wilderness of an Auckland inner city building site)
- strategies that failed to persuade “Stanley the Errant” Labrador to bring back the packet of pita bread he stole from the kitchen
- ordering Eden Catering lunches for our ict_pd cluster lead teacher start up meeting/s next week
- alerting our cluster principals to changes in the MoE milestone reporting requirements in 2008.
All of which makes me wonder
- What will I recall from today, tomorrow?
- What will I recall from today, in a months time?
- What will I recall from today, in 6 months time?
- What will I recall from today next year?
- W hat will I recall from today in 25 years time?
The activities that made learning memorable are not linked to any particular pedagogy. They are not answered by "Lisa like" "either/or" pedagogical questions ...
Lisa: So, dad, will you be teaching from a standardized text or using the more Socratic method?
I predict that the activities that will build new learning for me, the ones I will remember longest, are the ones that (as Graham Nuthall’s work suggests) I repeatedly experienced in a range of different settings in the day job –
All of which means I suspect will remember how
- the dementia centre staff create magic every day,
- shopping for the bargains identified by the Magnet involves the key competencies of reckless misadventure, ruthlessness and determination,
- sharing the mobile photo trivia of my life builds friendship,
- Maslow’s hierarchy of needs thinking is necessary but not sufficient for learning ready teachers,
- laughter can persuade you to agree to do extra stuff when you know that you should’t.
- the expectation of changing goal posts in the MoE ict_pd cluster milestone reporting requirements is unchanging.
Note to self: Stuff constructivism ... work on building memory ... and helping clarify for students what is needed when you are learning how to learn.