Sunday, November 29, 2009

Challenging Thinking - Julia Atkin

Always refreshing spending time with Julia. She has built up an incredible wisdom over the years she has worked in education. She has the most incredible ability to question and probe that bit further. I jumped in the car on Friday to head north for the weekend. Great to clear the head and gain some head space to ponder the depth of what Julia was getting at.
We have been working of the front of the New Zealand Curriculum for around 4 years. This time has been spent focusing on developing a learners capacity and disposition to be a Life Long Learner, Relate to Others and Inquire. This focus was deliberate to try and pull away from the traditional curriculum dominated instruction that was occurring. We are now digging into the back of the New Zealand Curriculum to think about the conceptual understandings we would like our students to leave our school with. Julia critiqued our start by stating that 'I think you have depth but not breadth'. As we started to unpack a bit more what she meant by breadth I felt we could quickly again go down the coverage track rather keeping her infamous questions in balance 'What is powerful to learn?' and 'What is powerful learning?'
It got me thinking about the purpose of primary school - what is our place and role in the learning pathway? Is it exposure to surface interests and talents across a broad range of learning experiences, Is it setting up individuals with important conceptual understandings to make sense of their world? Is it to develop curiosity and wonderment and nurture learning capacity so that when the authentic learning opportunity presents itself the individual will embrace the learning and take it beyond what we could imagine? The later suggests that the teacher pedagogy required is some what different to what the majority students would experience today. There must be a sweet spot in the middle I believe, where students develop the necessary dispositions to know what to do when they don't know what to do and to grow some conceptual understandings to help make sense of their world. Anyway great to get away for that bit of head space, your thoughts?

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