Letting go of the past

The great American pedagogue, John Dewey, believed schooling could be summed up by stating that its locus was in the teacher and textbooks – everywhere except the child and their activities. Perhaps teachers have always been afraid of releasing control to the kind of learning tasks that are social, collaborative and chaotic.

So it was interesting to hear Anrig Professor Richard Elmore’s thoughts last week on what he thinks schools should be doing to allow student learning to flourish. The message remains very simple, challenge young people and don’t project your expectations on them. Is this what we mean when we say schools need to let go of the past?

One thought on “Letting go of the past

  1. Letting go of the past ironically can also mean embracing neglected parts of it. Yes, Dewey stated that the locus was teacher and texts however he was a powerful proponent of experiential and project based learning. He had vision and was really before his time.
    I had to read this a few times to process my thoughts about your statement.
    The part of the past we need to let go is the dominant discourse of text books, teacher centred “learning”, and chalk and talk. In letting go of the past, perhaps we need to let go of the practice of the time BUT we do need to explore the theoretical advocacy. We now have spaces, furniture, technology and knowledge to support and more importantly sustain meaningful learning.
    Dewey has been attributed with the birth of Project based learning. He perceived that students whom were engaged in meaningful and interesting experiences were enriched and driven. He also advocated that the learner needs to be a researcher. If you are interested in something it is all the more easily accommodated into the existing schema.
    In regards to the clip, yes it is hard for some to let go of the structures of the past – yes environments need to be what Anrig Professor Richard Elmore refers to as “orderly and safe” in order to surrender trust to students (and to fellow teachers in the learning space). Anrig Professor Richard Elmore also refers to , “ Basic knowledge requirements”. The Eltis report gave us this very thing in the form of Foundation Statements and the draft National Curriculum refers to Content Descriptors. Foundation statements are meant to give freedom to content delivery and skill development.
    Anrig Professor Richard Elmore states that “teachers feel challenged by the kind of knowledge that you need to do, to do good teaching’. This is another good reason to move towards open learning environments where teachers learn from one another and may dare to take chances with the support of colleagues. I perceive letting go of the past as having more democratic classrooms giving children voice and letting go of the dictatorship of teacher centred learning.
    I liken the revolution to pointillism in art. Every dot makes it’s mark and becomes part of the bigger picture. So, you may not eliminate a dot but you may refresh it or overlap it with another one. I definitely agree that the time has come to draw on what is important from the past and to meld it to what is important in the future. The challenge is not to throw the baby out with the bath water. These are exciting times!

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