Offering 0pen and Honest Professional Advice
Education - hgunn.uk
The political concerns about educational standards have had a very long history. There remains a very instrumental, mechanical view of learning in society that views children as simply being empty vessels, inaminate objects that education can be simply injected into, which will they will retain, remember for the rest of children's lives.
Learning is something that can be only be constructed by children for themselves through responding to appropriately presented learning materials. They cannot develop fluent basic skills like language and mathematics unless they actively apply them outside the classroom. It takes thousands of hours to develop fluency in basic skills.
There is political unwillingness to accept that what children learn is not open ended and that their learning potential is not equal. Neuroscience research illustrates that each of brains is unique. Our brains are as different as our faces.
Although it is unpalatable, a taboo for politicians to accept it, there is clear evidence that intelligence and working memory is inherited. Working memory has a very strong influence upon children's language and mathematical development.
Life is unjust. Learning will always be more difficult for some children than others to achieve. There is some developing evidence that social deprivation has a physical effect upon children's brains.
What is Education?
Although everyone will agree that education is important for children, what is less certain is precisely what is important about it. Whilst passing examinations is important, this does not unquestionably mean that children possess the capabilities the examination pass implies. It was found that the traditional G.C.E. O'Level examinations did not sufficiently assess children's applied capability, the ability to use what they learnt.
Children have for generations revised for 'high stakes' examinations, such as the G.C.E. and more recently G.C.S.E. examinations. We will have all had the experience of doing revision. Much of what we revise will be lost after them. Examination performance rarely represents what children know and are able to apply on an everyday basis.
There are two types of assessments, examinations. The traditional form of assessments were norm referenced. These assessments were competitive. Children who were above the average score would pass them. The top 10% would obtain the highest grade and lowest 10% the lowest grade. The standard that children needed to achieve each year in them to pass and reach specific grades could vary from year to year
The criterion reference types of assessment, examination is based up set standards. Theoretically all children can pass them and any number of children can obtain the top A Grade. This means the standards children need to achieve are consistent over time. This is the form of the traditional G.C.S.E. examinations.
How We Learn
There are three forms of how we can learn. We can learn, remember information factually, such as a word or knowing that the world is round. We can develop skills through practice, such as the physical skills need to write or the cognitive thinking skills we need to read (The process). We can also develop understanding, which is internal state of mind, which we cannot view directly, such as understanding of why the world is round.
Understanding is a mental schema. It can be thought as being like having a map of a town in our heads. We can use a map to find our way around a town, as opposed to following factual directions that have been given to us, which we need to memorise and follow.
The limitation of using directions is that if a problem arises, such if we forget one detail of the direction, turn left instead or right, or a road that needs to be used is closed, then there will be little we can do about. If we have a map, then we can adjust how to we get to where we need to go.
Understanding based learning is more secure and adaptable than factual memorised learning. Research illustrates that 50% of factual information we learn, memorise is lost within a hour of learning it.
If a person is given sufficient instructions over time, then they will eventually develop a mental map, a schema for themselves, but the raw directions will be difficult to remember. A person who has a map will develop an internalised schema of the town much more rapidly and securely.
The professional term for rote, memorised teaching, is instruction. It is process of simply providing facts for children to memorise. Learning is not put on a plate for them. They are expected to develop understanding for themselves without teacher support.
Confusius, the Chinese teacher who lived around 500 B.C. refers to rote teaching as a 'feed the duck' method of learning, it does not consider sufficiently how we learn. Behaviourist, rote teaching is only used for animal training in the developed world.
Intelligent children will have the capability to create understanding for themselves. Rote teaching fails children of average and lower than average learning potential most, but it fails all learners of all learning potential.
All learning is process of cognitive growth. It takes more than a decade to grow an educated child. Education is a super tanker of ship, which can only effectively change it course slowly over yeas. Short term 'knee jerk' educational changes will yield short term superficial results.
There has been a tradition of dismissing the value of educational research in the United Kingdom. What has not always be politically understood in
creating a curriculum is that how what is taught will be retained and translated into applied capabilities that is important and considering what needs to be taught.
Developing cognitive and neuro-research is increasingly supporting what is known about learning. Whilst on the one hand it is illustrating the brain is very plastic, on the other, it is illustrating that what we can all effectively learn is not unlimited. Standards cannot be achieved by simply attempting to feed ever more knowledge into children.
Education needs to change to cater for our changing technological society. There is evidence elements of that changing society such as social media is having a negative impact upon children's education attainment.
There are risks in making educational change that promise improvements for the 'new scientific' generation that may not materialise into catering for children's future needs. There is even a greater risk of expecting children to learning too much superficially.
References - Further Reading
Mujis and D, Reynolds (2000)