Change Education

Shut Up & Think!

I joined Twitter over three years ago. One of the first educators I followed was @cpaterso – or Cameron Paterson, as I’m assuming it says on his think

His then-bio appealed to me. It was something along the lines of hating grades and – I think in the metaphorical rather than literal sense – wanting to “blow up school.”

Since then I’ve enjoyed his thoughts on education, and had the pleasure of working with him and some of the staff at his school.

So I was very interested to hear of an article he’d had published in the ACEL Journal. It centres around some learning experiences he had whilst studying at Harvard.

It’s a great read for two reasons.

1. It tackles the issue of Cam’s dislike for grading in a system reliant on it.

2. It proposes a consultancy protocol for problem solving as a group.

I encourage you to read the article for yourself, but I wanted to share the consultancy protocol. (See the illustration below)

When faced with a problem, how often do our attempts to solve it turn into a “talk fest?” Everyone has their two cents to throw in, each with their slightly different agenda.

It’s quite clear in these circumstances that our ability to talk far outweighs our ability to listen, and if we’re not listening properly, our thinking will not be as clear as it should be.

Perhaps this is because whilst we’re taught how to read, write and talk – other than an ad-hoc session on active listening – we are never really taught how to listen.

In fact many people mistake listening with just waiting to speak.

Listen or thy tongue will keep thee deaf… – Native American Proverb

The Consultancy Protocol ensures that people have an opportunity to think about what they have heard before responding with further questions to clarify their understanding.

Or as one of Cameron’s colleagues at Harvard – the most experienced educator among them – said,

It gave me a chance to shut up and think a little bit!

I like it. And whilst I haven’t been able to use it myself yet, I can certainly see the potential for its use in the work I do with schools, and will be incorporating it into workshops later this year.

The protocol is illustrated below.

Consultancy Protocol

Change Education

Let’s really flip the classroom

I‘ve read a fair amount about the flipped classroom of late… gotta be honest… I’ve not really been blown away by the concept in the way many have…

To me it doesn’t seem that revolutionary to me… I’m not sure how it is any different to an English teacher giving the class a text to read at home, so they can discuss it the next day in class… Anyone? Beuller? Anyone?

So… as I said let’s really flip it!

What if our extra-curricular activities weren’t extra at all?

What if community service, work experience, inter-faith dialogues, music groups, politics club, science club, the environment club, sporting teams were actually what we focused our time, money, resources and efforts on? What if these formed the curriculum and students could then choose to extend themselves in Maths, English, History, Geography as part of extra curricular clubs?

Would we be worse off? Would our best mathematicians still find their way?

Just an idea… and no, I haven’t thought about how we’d assess it.

**This blog started life on my Big Ideas site, and @SteveCollis commented on it. His comment really added value so I have pasted Steve’s thoughts below. Connect with him on Twitter or check out his website.

@cpaterso also linked me to this article. Again all good food for thought..

Steve Says…

I suspect that’s where things are heading.

How long will it take for mass awareness that kids studying online ‘perform’ better than kids in face to face classrooms, to translate into an exodus from traditional schooling structures? These things have a way of tipping quite suddenly. Like Borders / Amazon.

But the community of a school can never be replaced. It is, should be, a beating heart. It could morph into something like you’re describing.

You’d only need a few successful examples of such a model to be strongly popular and it could go viral.

I’m not sure you’d call it ‘school’ any more. Maybe you would.

You could start ‘real life’ sooner with the community model you’re describing. I realise real life is happening anyway, but it could cure the artificial bubble summed up in the question “Yes but when am I going to need to know this?”, “Trust me, you will one day.”

On the other end, it wouldn’t have to finish at age 18, and it could merge seamlessly with tertiary study… and beyond. This new learning-creature could become a permanent institution, rather than an episodic one. It could merge with other spaces you’ve invoked, like the sports field, performance centre… also shopping centre, business district, and so on. It might have multiple tiny campuses in addition to big ones. You plug in wherever you like, and mix and match as desired. In practice people would gravitate to centres-of-gravity and grow a sense of belonging around them, like Englishmen choose their local pub.

With you all the way Dan. The sort of thing you’re describing could come about through natural ‘market forces’ / shift-in-zeitgeist, which makes the scenario particularly credible.