Reflection: ‘Is the Sage on the Stage Really Dead’?

Something I’ve been enjoying is listening to podcasts on my morning walk (Wellington weather permitting…).  Friday morning’s podcast was asking whether or not the ‘sage on the stage’ model of teaching was really dead.  To be fair, the speakers’ responses clearly indicated that it is not, as they were mostly giving advice on how to move away from direct instructional teaching methods to more guiding or facilitating of students.

Some of the comments I heard really got me thinking and reflecting on my own practice.  The comment that had the most impact on me was the thought that many teachers agreed with the need to shift from ‘sage’ to ‘guide’ from an ideological view point, but found it difficult to enact from a practical stand point.  Hands up.  No, just me then?

This comment really encapsulates my fear when looking to move forward pedagogically next year.  I’m in the process of writing programmes for my classes in 2014, but what if they’re not ‘flipped’ enough, or provide enough authentic context, or seek to provoke genuine engagement… And I’m meant to be leading professional learning with this stuff?  Yikes!

In a way it’s really difficult to imagine what a student-centred classroom would look like when you’ve never experienced it yourself.  I’ve moved so much from when I first started this journey – from being a reluctant adopter, motivated essentially extrinsically due to the fact that my school was moving to BYOD and I would hate to see laptops as expensive electronic exercise books and pens, to being a raving enthusiast.  But.  I’ve yet to implement any of the stuff I’m likely to advocate.

I guess I just have to live in hope that my fear will be my saving grace.  That, as one participant in the podcast said, where there’s a will; there’s a way.  I’ll consider the advice I gleaned from the chat: ‘ask, don’t tell’ – how can I pose questions to lead students towards information rather than rely on me for direct instruction?  I kind of like the idea of setting the daily homework assignment of students asking a question about their learning every day – preferably in an online environment – which could help me to guide further learning, and, if I track the questions over time, to help me develop question-asking skills in learners.  Because, ultimately students don’t need us to be their source of information.  They have Google and Wikipedia for that.  We need to provoke students into asking their own questions, and to help them find or use the tools to explore their own answers.

 

Modern = Good?

I have just finished reading Claire Amos’ eminently sensible article written for the New Zealand Education Review.  (You can read the whole thing here.)

It seems to me that she really hits the nail on the head when she poses the following question:

“Interestingly, while I value and see huge potential in both MLEs and (student-owned) Learning Technologies, I am also concerned about them. I am concerned that the development of MLEs and the introduction of Learning Technologies can become a bit of a smoke screen and can actually create an illusion of modernity when little has actually changed. I worry that the introduction of these physically palpable and measurable objects will be seen as making a change for the better, when the one thing that really needs to be ‘introduced’ is still lacking: the teacher’s belief that the student is capable of leading their own learning. How do we ensure that MLEs and Learning Technologies don’t actually create the educational equivalent of ‘mutton dressed as lamb’ with old beliefs and teaching approaches being dressed up in hip and groovy clothing?”

This fits in with the challenge I see for my school as move towards BYOD.  It is not about the technology.  Ultimately it is about the pedagogy and that is the change we need to spark in our teachers.  Bean bags and iPads do not necessarily bring about future-focused learning.  And that is a mind shift I still need to wrestle with myself.  But boy, it’s fun thinking!

An Afternoon with Ken

Ken Robinson: How to escape education’s death valley

3 Principles that supports human life flourishing:

  1. Diversity – “kids prosper best with a broad curriculum that celebrates their various talents”
  2. Curiosity – “curiosity is the engine of achievement”
  3. Creativity – “one of the roles of education is to awaken and develop powers of creativity”

Other gems from this talk:

  • Great teachers “mentor, stimulate, provoke, engage”
  • “The role of the teacher is to facilitate learning” – there is difference between the task of teaching and the achieving of it, e.g. dieting.  You can be on a diet, but not be losing weight…!
  • There is a place for testing but it should not obstruct learning.  We currently have a culture of compliance rather than a culture of curiosity.
  • Case of Finland, where teaching and learning is individualised
  • Also places importance on the professional learning of teachers

It would be interesting to see what the New Zealand Curriculum says about these three principles.  My current understanding is that they are supported.  The intention behind the NZC is for schools to create their own curricula which are in line with the communities and students they serve.

The three principles are also ways to measure the benefit of new teaching practices.  Will they allow diversity, curiosity and creativity to flourish?