Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Making learning real - extreme but effective OBLIQUITY

Please bear with me - I will get to the point!
The issuing of A level results always brings with it a reflection in the media, on their value. For me, this reflection takes place a month or so earlier, when the International Baccaluareate results come out.
How well do these examinations assess (and measure) the real learning that the student has achieved?
How useful is this learning for getting the enabling qualifications in terms of prerequisite knowledge?
How useful is this learning for life?
I read Malcolm Bellamy's account (Education is not about certificates) with interest. In it he questions the value of the A level certificates in terms of learning things which will equip the holder for life in the global village.
Certainly, for traditional "professions" these certificates provide the currency for the next stage. But do they prepare these students for a lifetime of learning and provide them with the skills for life "in the global village"? And what about the many who do not want entry into traditional "professions" - what do these certificates do for them?
Bellamy quotes the seven essential skills that students will need in the 21st century, by Dr Tony Wagner, and these really got me thinking:
  1. Problem-solving and critical thinking;
  2. Collaboration across networks and leading by influence;
  3. Agility and adaptability;
  4. Initiative and entrepreneurship;
  5. Effective written and oral communication;
  6. Accessing and analyzing information; and
  7. Curiosity and imagination.
How do you teach/learn these skills? Do you take a course on "Collaboration across networks and leading by influence"? Or on "Curiosity and imagination"?
Of course not. 
Schools work on these seven obliquely (thanks John Kay for "Obliquity" and his book of the same name).
We provide opportunities for leadership, for projects in social service, for working together in teams, for setting up the refreshment stall for the open evening, for working at their History but actually also working on accessing and analysing information, for adapting to changes, for collaborating, and so on.
Of course , traditional lessons can be made to work on some or all of the seven points.
I came across the following video on Bellamy's site also, a very well produced account of project-based learning. Here surely is an extreme but highly effective example of obliquity - making learning real... ...and hitting all seven of Wagner's essential skills.

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