While I have been on professional leave, I have found myself with time to think and reflect. What has become very clear to me is that while we expect teachers to be continuously learning, reflecting and transforming the work, I don’t feel we have the same expectations of education systems. And that is a problem. How can it be possible to lead transformation in schools if transformation isn’t occurring within the system? As I’ve written about before, transformation is a metamorphosis of thinking and assumptions. The Grattan Institute’s latest report Towards an adaptive education system in Australia talks about this in the context of evolution in which the goal “is never stasis, but better managing change, learning from failure, and capturing success.”
There is a lot of rhetoric about schools being modern learning communities, but in the traditional schooling model, this is not the reality. The current model is a one-size-fits-all approach to learning that moves students lock-step towards achieving narrowly defined, easily-measured and strictly predetermined goals. The current processes and structures don’t ignite the students’ imagination and creative spirit – they strangle it. Why should any of us support a model that impedes the development of responsible, resourceful and self-directed learning at student, teacher and system level?
We have to immediately refocus. The new currency is learning how to learn, rather than what to learn. The promotion of learning is the raison d’etre of schooling. Schools exist for the purpose of ensuring students learn things worth knowing. Is there anything more worthwhile knowing than knowing than how to learn? We also have to become more comfortable accepting that learning how to learn is not something we can easily measure as it can’t be simply reduced to a set of scores that can be ranked and compared.
Learning is about making connections and creating meaning. Peter Senge (1990) hit the nail on the head when he said,”‘Through learning we re-create ourselves. Through learning we become able to do something we were never able to do.” Isn’t the process of learning itself, a process of transformation?
Maybe the challenge of transforming schooling is as simple as schools and systems learning how to learn. For the sake of our students, we cannot wait any longer.