Informing our practice

John Connell’s blog is worth reading.

He’s running a discussion on teaching at a crossroads and has, in my view, made some excellent observations about the challenges facing us all in schooling today. Judging by the comments he has tapped into some key issues. As hard as the comments may seem they have to be named and it’s an approach that I believe needs to be encouraged.

This year, we embarked on a learning conversation with school leaders, which is the core approach to delivering our system intent.  We purchased a book called ‘How people learn’ by Bransford et al, which serves as our  touchstone for continuing dialogue.

As I’ve said in previous posts, it is important that this theory informs our practice.  I don’t think we are going to get anywhere delivering the type of schooling needed in today’s world unless we engage in a serious, rigourous investigation and reflection using contemporary educational literature.

Our literature base is well recognised and respected: Fullan, Eddy, Hargreaves, Sergiovanni, Hill, Caldwell, Timperley, Robinson, Beare and so the list goes on.  These educators approach the business of schooling from a unique theoretical view point with profound implications for practice.

We have to move beyond “I think”, “I know”, “this works for me” as the only basis for informing good practice.  Too often, the approach in my experience has been to maintain the status quo and to avoid the hard issues in creating a relevant schooling experience.

I believe there is an element of anti-intellectualism that exists within the education sector and it is now time to name it and deal with it.  It certainly doesn’t imply that the work of teachers and their involvement in the change process is irrelevant. 

In fact, I would argue that never before have we needed greater teacher involvement and active participation in the work of creating knowledge-age schools. However,  participation must be informed by good theory not just personal opinion. 

It is up to each learning community to identify the theoretical framework, which will inform practice and then engage regularly in intelligent and reflective dialogue on the important issues.  This is done by reading, dialogue and exchange. In other words, professional learning at its best.
 


5 thoughts on “Informing our practice

  1. hi greg,

    It sounds like you are a fair way down the path of being committed to a particular learning approach. I haven’t read that book and am not familiar with most of the authors you cite

    I’d be interested in a summary of their main learning ideas – perhaps through subsequent posts (?). I suppose I should buy the book but there are so many competing approaches it would be nice to hear more first.

    I think the questions in your previous post (discernment versus digital) would provide a sound basis for the forum / leadership that we currently need – and which I can’t see others offering (in part because your questions are broader than just web2.0 considerations)

  2. Hi Greg,

    You wrote ” We have to move beyond “I think”, “I know”, “this works for me” as the only basis for informing good practice. Too often, the approach in my experience has been to maintain the status quo and to avoid the hard issues in creating a relevant schooling experience.”

    This is something I’ve been grappling with as well. I’ve come across a couple of books that have helped me begin to get a handle on what’s behind that kind of thinking and strategies for how to help people rethink their perspectives. One is “Change or Die” by Alan Deutschman. The other is “Think Better” by Tim Hurson.

    You may find them helpful as well.

    Susan

  3. So true Greg,

    I agree that Professional dialogue needs to be grounded in theory.

    It’s all well and good to build new schools, make resources accessible, and teach in different ways – but unless we can articulate why we believe it to be the best way forward for 21st century learning, and back our views with proven educational theorists, the task seems shallow.

    We began our professional dialogue with articles by yourself, along with Hedley Beare’s great book “Creating the Future School”. We look forward to continuing dialogue based on other theorists and educational philosophies.

    Thanks for the great leadership,
    Marcia

  4. Bill, regarding the summary of the main ideas of these authors….

    Helen Timperley’s research is on strategic targetting of teacher professional development to make an impact on student learning outcomes.

    David Eddy’s work is on the development of school leaders using a research base to understand leader effectiveness.

    Vivianne Robinson’s research is on principal/leader effectiveness.

    Michael Fullan has written extensively about leadership at a system level and learning outcomes.

    Bransford et al is a terrific introduction to theories of learning. I recommend Chapters 1,3, 6 and 9. Learning environments and the role of technology in learning is as relevant today as it was when the book was first published.

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