Monday, January 29, 2007

Integrating Science and Soul in Education

My wife has just put her recently completed thesis online!
To quote from her abstract:
"This is an auto-ethnographic study into the lived experience of a science teacher as she attempts to transform her science teaching practice and the practice of other science teachers over a period of 15 years. In exploring what it means to be a holistic educator she is faced with disorienting dilemmas which cause her to question underpinning assumptions, values and curriculum frameworks which inform traditional science teaching practice and culture. In trying to reconcile science and soul in the pedagogical space of a physics classroom her journey requires a deep investigation of self in various cultures – science culture, educational culture, modernist and postmodernist cultures."

Check out the contents... check out the cartoons and art work... listen to her introduction...
Phenomenal work!

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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Teaching for Engaged Learning

I'm still mulling over what "engaged learning" might mean - this time from a teacher (or teachers - no single teacher can do all this!) point of view. There are a number of ways of mapping this and the following may not be the best - it tends to imply some isolation of concepts that are very much connected and interdependant.... but too many lines begins to look very messy - which it is!

I might just let this sit a while... it needs work... and i'm not sure how useful it is - except to show how messy learning and teaching really are... :-)

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Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Engaging Learners - What's Different?

What's new about engaging learners? Following the thread of the last post I've attempted to map out some of the factors I believe have changed the way we might need to engage learners.

I've shown four areas (pink) that have changed significantly over the last few decades - some incrementally such as educational research informing learning, teaching and assessment practices - and some transformationally such as new worldviews or transdisciplinary inquiry.

Briefly with a couple of examples:

Engaging with ALL Students: Today we recognise that all human beings are natural learners and that learning should be meaningful and joyful for everyone. For educational institutions this means providing engaging learning environments and experiences for a wide diversity of learners. For teachers it means catering for individual learner differences.

Educational Research: Most of what we know about how the brain learns has only been discovered in the last decade or so. Today we have a much better understanding of assessment - of, for and as learning. Our knowledge of the advantages and limitations of different curriculum structures has improved.

Knowledge and Disciplines: Today we have immediate access to a rapidly increasing knowledge base. Over the last few decades multi-disciplinary, inter-disciplinary and trans-disciplinary inquiry have become increasingly important. New worldviews have transformed many disciplines - eg deep ecology, quantum physics, transpersonal psychology...

Social, Cultural and Planetary Change: Today's learners are living with, and being affected by, social, cultural and planetary change. Some of this change is incremental - faster, bigger, better... but more of the same - albeit at fast rate of change. Other change is transformational involving new ways of thinking, doing and being.

  • Values and Worldviews - There is an increasing recognition of the need to balance reductionistic, positivistic and materialistic thinking with systems, ecological, quantum, and network approaches. Organisations are increasingly considering 2nd (people), 3rd(planetary) and 4th (spirituality) bottom lines.
  • Globalisation - Through agreements in global trade, technology, economics and politics the world has become more closely connected and interdependent.
  • Technology - Advances in biotechnology, nanotechnology, artificial intelligence... are beginning to transform society. Information and communication technologies have already transformed many aspects of society and culture. A significant proportion of youth think and behave differently because of these technologies.
  • Sustainability - There are several challenges facing the planet that require us to adopt different ways of thinking and being.
  • Social Justice - Issues of equity and social justice requiring systemic approaches have become more prominent.
  • Workplace - Employees now require so-called "21st Century" skills such as information literacy, problem solving, metacognition, collaboration... for the workplace.
  • Authority - Church and Nation, family and career do not provide the same sense of authority and purpose for many people - particularly youth. On the other hand there is a rise in fundamentalism.

What have I missed?

It needs a list of references... (although you can see many in the list of books on the side of this blog - not to mention the delicious tags...)

Anyway... in summary...

The conversation about engaging learners is different today because:

  1. We are talking about engaging all learners.
  2. We know more about how to engage learners.
  3. We need to engage learners in 21st century knowledge, skills and understanding
  4. Many learners are enculturated differently through new and different technology, commercial values, worldviews... Traditional sources of meaning are not as relevant for many young people.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly we recognise that this issue is complex and requires systems thinking. We also know that there is no ONE solution. One size does not fit all.

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