“It’s ridiculous to think that kids can be trusted to learn things on their own.” Teacher, anon.
A couple of months ago I wrote about a primary school in Scotland which had embarked on some very interesting ‘joined-up’ learning, and I have often written or spoken about the challenges which secondary schools face when attempting to do the same thing. By definition, when your starting point is a structure which is built around a number of subject departments, when time is allocated to those subjects on the basis of their perceived importance in the hierarchy, and where young people move around from one to the next in the course of the school day, it is always going to be difficult to provide experiences which add up to a coherent whole. Add to that the enormous pressure to produce better and better exam results at the exit point, and the opportunities for real student choice, self-directed learning and learning based on outcomes rather than inputs are going to be restricted, to put it mildly. So is it possible for every secondary school to accommodate the needs of every young person? Can they support and challenge the more creative, the non-conformists, the independent thinkers? And is it reasonable to expect them to deliver learning which is relevant, joined up and personal in every case? Do we need to think about alternative school models, or should we begin by looking at the possibility of creating ‘ a school within a school’ as they have done in this bold experiment at Monument Mountain Regional High School in Berkshire County, Massachusetts? Incidentally, if you listen carefully you will realise that the quote at the top of the blogpost is taken from near the beginning of the video.
My thanks, as so often, to Kenny Pieper for bringing the film to my attention. If you haven’t found Kenny’s blog yet, you’re in for a treat.