Friday, 6 January 2012

Consequence of change in learning - teachers have to give up power

Listening to Howard Rheingold at the questions session on #change11 MOOC brought home to me how reliant we are as teachers on control. Control of the learning environment, control of what is taught, control of what is assessed, control of the learner. Some of this is inevitable. But if we are to go towards open processes, then some of it we have to replace.
Rheingold had three relevant statements on the subject:
He tells his students that "absorbing all is not the goal but making sense of it together is" and that it is "scary and difficult for a teacher to give up power to the student. It is very rewarding once you do it, but you give them the responsibility to learn." Also, students "students cannot come into the classroom to be passive".
Of course, age is a factor. I agree with this approach 100% for university level students. We in schools should be weening our students towards these approaches. When? Well, I do think we have some of this in many Primary schools just by the nature of how they operate. In ours, we use the International Primary Curriculum and so the approach hands over some curriculum and learning control (although teachers work really hard in planning for such a programme).
It has caused us to re-think our 6th - 8th grade programme and to plan for more "open" approaches. To do this, teachers have to give up some power. How much? With what and where?


onewheeljoe said...


Thanks for your post. I think your question deserves classroom research. It occurs to me that knowing where to draw the line in terms of authority and control begs for a little experimentation - thoughtful practice in loosening structures and handing over control to students so we can reflect on the benefits and challenges.

George Hobson said...

Joe - thanks for your comment. Thoughtful practice in loosening structures is what we need.
Just reading Sugata Mitra's account in the Times Educational Supplement (of hole in the wall computing in India fame) where he advocates using a "self-organised learning environment" with internet access and arranged so that groups of four children can work together. This reduces the classroom management load in classes of 20 and makes the handing over of control more do-able.
It is a time for some classroom research...

George Hobson said...

From @suifaijohnmak - thanks!
Power in class and networks - implications for K-12