Archive for June 2017

Suffer the little children to come unto school

Stuart Middleton

EdTalkNZ

21 June 2017

 

The latest Education Review (Vol. 8, Issue 3, 2017) has a most interesting article from Dr John Boereboom addressing the issue raised in the recent Education Update Amendment Bill: What is the Best Age for Starting School?

The move towards cohort entry (that is when groups of around 5 year olds will all arrive at school on the same day rather than the current practice of starting on or close to their fifth birthday) must surely be questionable.

Boereboom notes that the policy will in all likelihood be popular and adopted by many primary schools. The perceived benefits to schools, the simplification of the enrolment process, the increased ease of planning programmes is put forward and I think he is right.  But…. Here we go again on change that is premised not on what is best for the student but what is best for grown-ups running the school.

The evidence for starting school early is fairly neutral but there is a bias in towardsthe negative side. So in reality there is no compelling reason for current practice to change.

It simply must be easier to introduce one child at a time into a group where a level of comfort with this strange place called a school has developed and where, in the best new entrant classrooms, there is a developed sense of “welcome into the whanau”, where buddy systems are possible and comfort can be offered to the new arrival appropriately by the more experienced class member. And what an opportunity for learning and development is in these experiences.

It must also be easier for a school to support the parent through that little wrench that we all feel when we leave our little ones on the other side of the school gate for the first time. It seems to signal the start of a process from which parents over time become increasingly estranged from the process of schooling. The group-shared anxieties of the change to cohort new-entrant enrolment are on both sides. Remember that when the flock is drafted both the ewes and the lambs are distressed.

But there might be an even more compelling reason to retain current practice. When a four-year-old talks excitedly about turning five, a key topic is about “going to school”. “And what will you do there?” Grandparent asks to which the little new student responds along the lines of “I am going to learn to read and write.” And we return the enthusiasm with a promise that of you come to school regularly, are a good little person and try your best, that is exactly what will happen. Of course, we find that quite a hard task but we give it a go. And admit it, you all have photos of your first day at school, and of your children’s first day at school, and your grandchildren’s first day at school – although this is probably taken in your lounge as the fashion parading of the new uniform is undertaken!

For one day, the day they turn five, a little person is the centre of attention and there is a clear focus on going to school that is probably not equalled in importance until that little person has become a big person and sets off to Graduation Day (18-20 years later) or Going-to- First Job-Day soon after that.

If we remove these rites-of-passage we take away experiences from children and adults that are of great importance.

There is a built-in contradiction in the discussion. As Dr Booreboom tell us: “Clearly the decision as to when to start school is unique.” There is nothing unique about turning up and rolling into school in a “mewling mob of frightened lambs.”

Young students can only succeed as individuals.

 

Finishing the sentence: “Why does it take so …..?

There are only two kinds of institution in which time served is of critical importance – one is an educational institution and in the other you get time off for good behaviour.

 

So, what is going on with the practice that defines “learning” in terms of the time that has been spent? It’s everywhere it seems. With NCEA you do Level 2 only after you have done 10 years in school, a degree can be described as a three-year degree or a four-year degree. Tertiary gets itself into the arguments about what is direct or face-to-face teaching and what is “self-directed learning”. It is not an exaggeration to suggest that education is controlled by time served.

 

NZQA used to have a little booklet called Learning and Assessment and it said that “Framework assessment is about standards of performance achieved, not how learning occurred.” It even went on to say that “there is no requirement for prior course attendance, work experience or time served.” Wait a minute! Does this mean that students could get a qualification if they passed the assessment before even attending the course? It does but then the booklet says it gets called “Recognition of Prior Learning’!

 

If it is good enough to recognise prior learning on occasion, why is it not good enough to recognise it as an ongoing feature of assessment generally? For instance, one way would be to allow multi-level assessments in schools – one programme could lead to awards being made at different levels as a result of multi-level assessments being used. Perhaps students could nominate the level at which they wished to be assessed. Or there could be a flexibility in assessment.

 

Let’s use the example of the Drivers Licence Test – a good example of standards-based learning. You know in advance what you need to know. You can practice as much as you like. You can sit the assessment when ready. You pass or fail on the basis of an assessor’s judgment. Except for the actual driving of the car of course. But the rode code knowledge could be assessed on line.

 

Just as the knowledge and therefore competence of Justices of the Peace is now measured in order give them the “Accreditted” tag in New Zealand. Actually the JP test is even more daring as the accreditation test can be taken any time, you need to reach a certain score of correct answers, if you do not you fail but have the right to come back straight away and have a further go at the questions you failed. In short, the question asked in most secondary and tertiary institutions – How much time have you spent on this? – is never asked.

 

Think how different education could be if freed from the artificial constraints of time. A colleague used to frequently say that “God created time so that everything didn’t happen at once!” And, perhaps, to allow education to run according to the clock.

 

 

 

Beating the clock!

Stuart Middleton

EdTalkNZ

12 June 2017

 

There are only two kinds of institution in which time served is of critical importance – one is an educational institution and in the other you get time off for good behaviour.

 

So, what is going on with the practice that defines “learning” in terms of the time that has been spent? It’s everywhere it seems. With NCEA you do Level 2 only after you have done 10 years in school, a degree can be described as a three-year degree or a four-year degree. Tertiary gets itself into the arguments about what is direct or face-to-face teaching and what is “self-directed learning”. It is not an exaggeration to suggest that education is controlled by time served.

 

NZQA used to have a little booklet called Learning and Assessment and it said that “Framework assessment is about standards of performance achieved, not how learning occurred.” It even went on to say that “there is no requirement for prior course attendance, work experience or time served.” Wait a minute! Does this mean that students could get a qualification if they passed the assessment before even attending the course? It does but then the booklet says it gets called “Recognition of Prior Learning’!

 

If it is good enough to recognise prior learning on occasion, why is it not good enough to recognise it as an ongoing feature of assessment generally? For instance, one way would be to allow multi-level assessments in schools – one programme could lead to awards being made at different levels as a result of multi-level assessments being used. Perhaps students could nominate the level at which they wished to be assessed. Or there could be a flexibility in assessment.

 

Let’s use the example of the Drivers Licence Test – a good example of standards-based learning. You know in advance what you need to know. You can practice as much as you like. You can sit the assessment when ready. You pass or fail on the basis of an assessor’s judgment. Except for the actual driving of the car of course. But the rode code knowledge could be assessed on line.

 

Just as the knowledge and therefore competence of Justices of the Peace is now measured in order give them the “Accreditted” tag in New Zealand. Actually the JP test is even more daring as the accreditation test can be taken any time, you need to reach a certain score of correct answers, if you do not you fail but have the right to come back straight away and have a further go at the questions you failed. In short, the question asked in most secondary and tertiary institutions – How much time have you spent on this? – is never asked.

 

Think how different education could be if freed from the artificial constraints of time. A colleague used to frequently say that “God created time so that everything didn’t happen at once!” And, perhaps, to allow education to run according to the clock.