Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The elephant in the classroom

At the weekend I attended and presented at the Vietnam Technology Conference in Ho Chi Minh City.  The keynote speaker on the first day was John Burns, the Director of Creativity and Innovation at International School Services.  In this keynote, John shared some very useful resources, which I'm getting round to reading and blogging about this week.  The first one is by Will Richardson and is entitled 9 Elephants in the (Class)Room that should "Unsettle" Us.  Will writes that many educators are more concerned with "doing the wrong thing right" than doing the right thing and that he is frustrated with our unwillingness to acknowledge these elephants in the (class)room - the things that we don't want to talk about in education.  Here are his 9 elephants:
  1. Our students will forget most of the content they learn in school - in fact only a small fraction is retained even for one year after "learning" it because this content has little or no relevance to students' real lives.  One elephant is that despite knowing this, we continue to focus on content knowledge.
  2. Many students are bored and disengaged - and technology cannot solve this.  The answer is to give students more choices and agency over their own learning.
  3. Schools were not built for deep learning - which involves interest, passion and an authentic reason for learning.  Deep learning also involves agency and choice about what, when, where and with whom you learn, and yet in most schools students are told what to learn, how to learn it and how they will be assessed on their understanding.
  4. Assessment is not based on what will matter for future success - such as being a creative thinker.  We should not be teaching and assessing students on the things that in the future machines will be able to do.
  5. Students and parents are more interested in grades than in learning.
  6. Our curriculum is based on the subjects that were important over 100 years ago - not on today's needs.  We need to make new choices about the "one billionth of one percent" of knowledge that we are teaching in schools.
  7. Separating learning into subjects is not real-world - the future belongs to people who combine a range of different skills from different subjects.
  8. Education is not adequately preparing students for further education or for work.
  9. Learning that sticks is usually learned informally in the moment - and yet schools continue to work on a "just in case" belief that access to knowledge is still scarce.
I've been mulling over these elephants and thinking about whether or not they are also present in international school classrooms.  Reflecting on my own experience at ASB I would say that 1, 4 and 6 in particular are relevant, and possibly 5 and 7 further up the school.  I don't see our students as bored and disengaged, and I do think we are preparing students adequately for university, if not for work.  Probably our biggest issue I would think is our curriculum, especially the content knowledge, standards and assessments that don't seem relevant.  In the elementary school I think we do a good job at being transdisciplinary, but still think we could give students more choices in what they learn and how they learn it.

Do you agree with Will Richardson about the elephants in the classroom?  Which ones are the ones you need to acknowledge?

Photo Credit: Timothy Valentine Flickr via Compfight cc

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting! I think we kind of take turns to have each elephant in the room, based on the stress / time of the school year, testing, standards or external elements, report crads season, PT mtgs, Stdt Led Conferences, Goal setting, and of course, actual teacing in the classrooms! I am always amazed by how important 5 is to stdts and parents... and unfortunately, teachers fall into that too sometimes :-(