The rearview mirror

It was media theorist Marshall McLuhan who famously said we look at the present through a rearview mirror.  This is what I am doing at the momenrear-view-mirrort as I reflect on the last 498 posts on bluyonder.  There have been some posts that were well-received, others critiqued and many that have been ignored. The blog was never
going to be a lone catalyst for educational transformation but it joins the thousands of educational blogs around the world creating a critical mass for change.

In all the bluyonder musings, the biggest challenge seems to be ‘why is it so difficult for teachers to change?’ For the most part we are stuck in the liminal space between the vast experience of the past and the unimaginable possibilities for doing the valuable work of schooling differently.  This isn’t the responsibility of the teaching profession alone (although the profession needs to drive the agenda) – it is one that society shares. Teachers need the support of the local school communities. These communities need the support of coherent education policies that reflect an understanding of the challenges in providing a first class contemporary schooling experience.

Unfortunately what I continue to see is a vicious cycle where teachers don’t trust the administration when improvement is advocated, where governments want students to be creative and innovative but continue to support high stakes testing and where parents want more engaging learning experiences without schools daring to be innovative in teacher practice and school design. All these come together in the perfect storm alongside publication of  international test rankings and federal and state elections. If we want contemporary practice, innovative solutions, continuous improvement and the like as the norm for all schools, some things have to change. A good start would be for communities to talk up the work of their schools. This requires a stronger and deeper engagement than currently exists.

However the most important change we need is to turn the schooling model on its head. Most schooling is still defined and designed around “the Curriculum” and the delivery of this curriculum through the timetable construct. It is not the curriculum that should shape the learning and teaching but the students themselves. In other words the kids are the curriculum. The question of why it so difficult to start with the child rather than the curriculum isn’t new thinking (John Dewey) but it seems we have become increasingly fearful of failure as compliant servants of an industrial system (Ken Robinson). Yet failure is at the heart of learning, teaching and ultimately improvement (Dylan Wiliam) and it is this that keeps me fixed on the bluyonder while occasionally pausing to see where we’ve come through the rearview mirror.



4 thoughts on “The rearview mirror

  1. II don’t believe that teacher’s won’t change, but they operate in an industrial environment that does not keep up with change. I commenced teaching 30 years ago at 20 one hour sessions per week of student contact, with upto 32 students in a class in a secondary school. That has not changed. I now also teach VET classes that in the TAFE sector are staffed at 14 students, in a secondary school I have 24. Why does real STEM have a problem working, because he staffing arrangements don’t cater for it. I would love to negotiate a longer working day, but only 4 days work a week, system doesn’t accommodate it. The system wants change, but it can’t afford to fund it. Teachers don’t want to pay for it at their expense all the time.

  2. I think you’ve nailed it Greg – and the role of high stakes testing is really important here, because as long as we make one of the most critical published metrics about skills “x” and “y”, then we’re going to focus on those things. Imagine if we assessed collaboration, communication etc through our high stakes assessments, instead of leaving that to employers to assess in a subjective interview process that lasts 40-45 minutes.

  3. Marshall McLuhan’s works are very useful in understanding social, perceptual and technological change. His many works include “The Gutenberg Galaxy” as well as “Understanding Media”. I recommend these excellent books which are still very relevant today

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