I have been on Twitter a while. For most of that time I’ve been a lurker. In Canada, I did participate for a while in #CdnEdChat which was where I discovered what a great platform Twitter could be for CPD. It is amazing the amount of information that can be disseminated in 140 characters or less. Now I don’t have time to get involved in the same way as I did in Canada but still I always find myself checking out Twitter to see what’s current and newsworthy.
One of the debates that I find fascinating is the one between traditional and progressive educationalists and their advocates. I suspect this debate is not nearly as polarised as tweets on Twitter would suggest. In the past, I would certainly have described myself much more progressive than traditional in my outlook. I was someone who wholeheartedly embraced project-based learning but as I become more experienced the more I believe that we are called teachers for a reason. I’m not to saying project-based learning doesn’t have a place in the Primary classroom but rather that it is only one of the tools we should be using.
I love the idea of self-directed learning. Certainly, I think that by the time students leave school this should be something they are able to do. But at what point does this become possible? There are a whole raft of skills and knowledge that you need to be able to direct your own learning. These are not acquired by osmosis. Careful and purposeful teaching is needed if students are to gain the necessary skills and knowledge needed to direct their own learning. That is the job of a teacher.
As I mentioned in a previous blog the other issue I have with Discovery learning is that while it may be effective in some circumstances it’s not efficient. If memory serves I think it was Jared Diamond who pointed out that scholars believe writing was ‘invented’ independently 5 times in history. I only point this out to illustrate how difficult learning to write is and that if we left our students to discover it by themselves it would take a long time indeed for them to learn how to write.
What I do find remarkable is that there is a debate about ‘traditional’ vs.’progressive’ education. When I was a university, admittedly a while ago, I don’t recall any debate. It was a given that progressive, child-centered education was the only type of education that was worth learning about. (There is another possibility. There was a debate but I was such a bad student I missed it…) So it is interesting to me that there is such fervent debate about it today. In part, this is to be expected as our understanding of how humans learn deepens and cognitive science is able to impart knowledge that earlier theorists didn’t have access to.
The debate is an important one and one I will keep following with interest. My views have evolved over time. A combination of new information and more teaching experience is reinforcing the belief, that while there is a place for project-based learning, a taught curriculum is necessary if students are to maximise their potential as learners.