Students at the Centre of Learning
04 May 2018
On Wednesday night at Year 8 Camp, I had the privilege of watching a number of kids stand up before their peers and share a few thoughts on what it means to be a team. This didn’t happen inside of a building. We walked to the waters edge at Tahlee Camp in Carrington NSW and watched as the sun slowly sank behind the distant hills.
It was generally in the 1870s and as late as 1908 that the Australian colonies began to pass education acts establishing school systems. In the United States, it wasn’t until 1918 that there was national compulsory education.
Previous to this, adults were enraged about child labour as children were taking the jobs of adults, as it was much cheaper to employ them. There may have been some moral concerns over children losing fingers or being abused at work, but the economic reasons were considered far more important. The factory owners of the time declared that it would be disastrous to their industries as they couldn’t afford to employ adults.
This was the perfect way to promote education to the industrialists of the day; that educated kids would be more compliant and productive workers. The plan was to trade the short term loss of child labour for longer term efficiency through an industrialised education system.
Our world is rapidly changing and the industrial era no longer exists, and this has far-reaching implications for how we teach our children. Workforce skills and demands have dramatically changed over the years and today’s students will be applying for jobs that require critical and creative thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity skills. We were significantly an agrarian society one hundred years ago, a manufacturing society fifty years ago, and today we are becoming a service-oriented society. The key competencies needed in a service-oriented society are listening, empathy, problem-solving and collaboration skills.
Today’s students are no longer preparing themselves for a single career with one or two jobs over a lifetime. According to McCrindle, the average tenure in a job is 3.3 years and therefore the pace of change is much greater than in the past.
When students are at the centre of learning they are given opportunities to lead learning activities, be more actively involved in discussions and learning projects, and generally contribute more to their own study.
Student-centred learning can be transformative for students. When they are presented with choice and responsibility, critical and creative thinking with practical activities within the authenticity of the real world, students are engaged in learning that is extensive and enduring.
Education needs to be about students, focused on their learning so that they can apply what they know to new situations, giving them the best opportunities to contribute to the real world.
Leading Learning Team