Take the leap into new learning styles

Rossland's Neighbourhood of Learning looks at the way education is changing.

Rossland’s Neighbourhood of Learning looks at the way education is changing. Written by Jennifer Ellis.

Like it or not, education is changing.

As parents, community members and even educators, we may not always like the changes that we are observing, or in the case of educators, being requested to implement. The new math curriculum, Math Makes Sense, has resulted in exasperated pull-your-hair-out sessions in many households. Students being engaged through more self-directed blended learning models sometimes complain, “I just want to be told what to do.”

In times of change, there is often a desire to cling to what is familiar worksheets, lectures, text-books, single-grade classrooms, distinct subject lines. After all, it worked for most of us, right?

New education models can seem more chaotic, dynamic and downright scary. How are we going to know if students are learning if they are all working on different things at different paces? How are we going to grade them? What will our classrooms look like? Are kids going to be spending more and more time doing on-line learning? Is blended learning really a better way to learn?

For achievement-oriented students, inquiry-based,  student lead learning models can seem like an unfair leveling of the playing field.

For many of these students, memorizing course material provided by the teacher and regurgitating it on a test is a simple feat.

The fact that many of them do not always understand the material on a deep level or remember it a few months later is unimportant. What matters is the A. Or does it?

Do we go to school to learn, to learn how to learn, or to earn our way into some form of higher education? The best answer is probably all three.

What about those students that do not seem engaged by traditional models of education – that are shut off, unmotivated or unable to engage the course material?

Traditional models of education privilege certain styles of learning over others. They allow certain types of students to excel while sending the message “this learning stuff isn’t for you” to other students. And are successful students truly engaged, or have they just figured out the steps to getting good grades?

Learning and learning how to learn have not been a central focus of the public education system for as long as it has existed.

Brilliant educators in Rossland and around the world have fostered learning and learning how to learn for decades. Many of these educators have spent thousands of hours trying to ensure that no student is left behind.

Many of them have also been quietly implementing new approaches to education in their classrooms for years without calling it ‘student-lead learning’ or ‘inquiry-based learning.’

But innovators in the world of education are shaking it up a bit. They are saying that the sentiment “I just want to be told what to do” isn’t good enough, that meaningful engagement is a requirement for learning, and that students need to learn how to learn without teachers.

They are also saying that these changes need to be implemented school-wide on a deeper level.

Achieving these changes will likely require a change in the way we structure classrooms, teaching and schools. It will also require a cultural shift in how we view education.

These principles are reflected in BC’s New Education Plan and increasingly in new education policies around the world. These kinds of changes are being proposed for RSS on a broader scale in the fall of 2012.

Adopting new models of education is not necessarily going to be easy or smooth.

Change takes risk and innovators need to be supported.

Parents and students have to be patient and open to approaches that do not necessarily look like the ones we are used to.

Watch for information about an upcoming open house for RSS parents on how the timetable at RSS will look next year.

As Shelley Wright, an educator, observed in her blog, “If we truly want to do what is best for kids, we need to support teachers who willingly engage the messy landscape of student-centred learning.”

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