On pedagogical literacy
The role of parent choice, voice and control in education
I’ve been thinking about the way that “school choice” in Australia has created a kind of marketplace of pedagogies (for some families, but that’s not the discussion I’m engaging in here). Schools have to be seen to innovate - never mind that we don’t have a clear definition of what innovation is. For some, it might be throwing out balanced literacy, where exposure and immersion stand in for reading instruction. Elena Douglas of Knowledge Society recently pointed out to me that whole language gained traction early last century! For others, it might be the adoption of Fullan’s many C’s - critical thinking, creativity, communication - or project-based, “authentic” learning.
Think for a moment about these propositions, and ask yourself, which one is more appealing:
Children who are ready for the unknowns of the 21st Century, who are apt critical thinkers, agile, adaptable, creative, work-ready problem solvers.
Children who can read, write, calculate, and who know a lot.
The problem here is that proposition two is a precondition for proposition one. When I interviewed for my current role, my principal asked me, “If I came into your classroom on an average day, what would I see?”
“All the boring stuff,” was my reply. Routine, learning intentions, explicit instruction. In other words, all the things that wouldn’t sit so well in a slick infographic-style framework.
The second problem with proposition two is that parents assume this kind of instruction is already happening in schools. Until they don’t. I’ve noticed on Twitter that there is a large cohort of parent advocates in the US who seem to have discovered too late that the Science of Reading (and Learning) is not being employed in schools. These parents are truly pedagogically literate and would trade all the C’s in the world for a child who could read.
Some schools are innovating themselves out of their basic responsibilities. The links between knowledge and critical thinking are ignored as parents believe the hype that their child will be offered a discrete and teachable skill. The way I see it, two things need to happen:
Schools are often victims of their own success, but a truly innovative strategy would be one that rejects fads. That would indeed be revolutionary.
There’s a call to action here. We spend a lot of time fighting our corners online but the way I see it, not enough time on respectful and informative outreach, educating our parent communities about the good work we do. We can enlist parents as advocates of the Science of Learning, but not without taking that first step.