You can easily be forgiven for thinking we live in parallel universe at times. No where is this more evident than in schooling. Over Christmas I caught up with some reading that still leaves my head spinning.
Last November England’s new conservative government released its white paper entitled: The Importance of Teaching.
It certainly makes for interesting reading as it looks firmly to the past for solutions to our current challenges. While the sentiment about the importance of teaching is laudable it would have been beneficial if the paper followed up with sound theory, contemporary research and evidence-based practice to support the critical work of teachers.
What we get is the same tired (and tried) list of “reforms” aimed at improving the standard of schools across England. Under each of the seven headings are a set of strategies which make no reference to the world in which young people live, learn and play nor to the work of committed and professional teachers. Nor is there reference to working collaboratively or ensuring time for critical reflection on practice.
Strategies outlined include things such as cutting bureaucracy, allowing private individuals and organisations to establish their own schools, establishing an “escalating floor standard”, which sets a minimum expectation for attainment. However, this one is my favourite – “trial a new approach to exclusions where schools have new responsibilities for the ongoing education and care of excluded children.”
This hardly passes as mindful education policy geared towards addressing some of the complexities of changing a tired, outdated behemoth like our education systems.
After my momentary bout of depression brought on by the white paper, I was uplifted and inspired by Linda Darling-Hammond’s latest book ‘The Flat World and Education‘.
Darling-Hammond needs no introduction to the education world. It is a shame that President Obama didn’t make her US Secretary for Education. She is always insightful and ahead of the game, and this latest text is no different.
Her ” white paper” starts with the simple notion that the world has changed and therefore schools need to change. At the heart of this change is the need to “design schools for teaching and learning”. Her strategies for change include turning schools into smaller units, structure learning for personalisation, make learning intellectually challenging and relevant, develop performance based assessments, build professional learning and collaboration, support successful innovation and sustain change.
This book is refreshing, challenging and stimulating and speaks, I think, to the heart of every good teacher who wants to be directly involved in improving schooling.
Can anyone suggest any other good reads?