An interesting blog entry titled Fearless learners, Fearful Schools by Will R on the Weblogg-Ed site got me thinking about many of the issues we face here in NZ. While Will focuses his attention on the situation in the US, his point about creating studetns who are life-long learners rather than successful test-takers applies. Here in NZ we’ve managed to do away with a more traditional “test-oriented” senior secondary system, but the problems we are experiencing with its replacement, the NCEA , may well be due, in part, to the legacy of expectations around a “test-oriented” system.
In his post, Will R states: “we have to give our students the tools and the skills to find relevant information and use it well on their own. That we need to teach them to literally revel in the learning process and the collaborative, social construction of knowledge that it creates.”
To achieve this requires an attitude of risk taking, learning from mistakes, of inquiry and exploration. We have to do a better job of shifting the emphasis from learning as being a relatively isolated and independent activity, designed around the transmission and ‘absorbing’ of content – to learning as an act of exploration, being connected, negotiating meaning, taking risks etc. Of course, no end of year test will be able to assess that!
The point Will R makes is that it is the schools themselves (and the culture of our education system) that is actively working against allowing this to happen. He cites the case of a school that has shut down its blogging network in order to protect its reputation as an example of the ‘fear’ that schools/teachers/the system has of being exploratory and risk taking in its own behaviour.
I can’t help but agree that it’s this sort of thinking that limits so much of what is (or isn’t) happening currently in our schools in NZ.