“Out of Our Minds is a passionate and powerful call for radically different approaches to leadership, teaching and professional development to help us all to meet the extraordinary challenges of living and...
William Butler Yeats so aptly once said, “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” This prominent 20th Century poet and playwright was wise to the vast difference between knowing and understanding. To simply know facts is not to understand what makes those facts knowledge. “To understand is to be able to wisely and effectively use– transfer– what we know, in context; to apply knowledge and skills effectively, in realistic tasks and settings.” (Wiggins & McTighe, 2005, p. 4). So how can today’s education system help students achieve this type of ‘education for understanding?’ Teachers– as collaborators and guides– must find creative ways to stimulate their students’ natural curiosities and allow them to make connections between theories, while building the skills and attitudes they will need for life-long learning. Child-centered and retrospective curricula design, combined with inquiry-based learning, will allow schools to foster authentic student learning experiences, by providing students with opportunities to engage in meaningful learning experiences; to explore, investigate, discover, collaborate and communicate with others in an experiential and ‘minds-on’ learning environment.
According to Malaguzzi, “Learning and teaching should not stand on opposite banks and just watch the river flow by; instead, they should embark together on a journey down the water. Through an active, reciprocal exchange, teaching can strengthen learning how to learn.”
Richland Academy is now entering its tenth anniversary, and comes with a history of traditional teaching. Now three years into the transition from a traditional teaching model to a Reggio inspired approach, the wonders of this way of supporting learners is emerging. But with it comes the challenges of bringing on board an already existing team of excellent teachers, as well as new teachers, and asking them to teach and learn through a different lens. We are learning how to listen and how to observe the children and each other. As we constantly reflect, we realize that our journey, although fraught with self-doubt, feelings of inadequacy, and the need for us to let go of our own personal egos, also brings us renewed joy in our teaching, allows for deeper creativity and is moving us all towards 21st century learning, that is based on natural inquiry and the child as a key player in his own learning.
As we move into what is being called the “creative” or “conceptual” age, success in a few narrow core subjects will no longer prepare students for this world.
To provide youth with the tools and knowledge to successfully handle future challenges and opportunities, a change in educational philosophy is necessary. Learning and thinking must be considered subjects in and of themselves if we are to adequately prepare students for their futures. Students need opportunities to work collaboratively and think critically and creatively about ideas and issues across a range of disciplines, while developing a solid academic foundation and enhancing their intelligences, including “soft skills” such as understanding, empathy, collaboration and communication skills. Schools must grant students the right to take ownership of their work and engage them in the decision-making process, so that they may build their intellectual character while exploring ideas and solutions.