A couple of digests ago, I began a series of editorials about our Amesbury School vision for education. I wish to continue this today.
Our vision for learning is for every child to experience what it means to be fully human and to continually fulfil his/her potential. I introduced a framework from humanising care in nursing which identified eight aspects of what it means to be human which we have been using to think about what a humanising education might look like for students. Today I wish to focus on "insiderness", one of those aspects.
INSIDERNESS: This is a word which we have appropriated for education. We say students should be "insiders in their own learning". This means that students should have a strong sense of belonging to the community of learners rather than feeling like outsiders. They shouldn’t have the sense of standing outside a classroom, looking inside through a misty window pane and straining to see the learning that is happening to them. They should be actively involved in their learning, not passive recipients of learning or objects that learning “is done to”.
As members of the community of learners, “Insiders” are involved in the process of acquiring the knowledge that is important for effective learning. They recognise that the teacher has professional knowledge of the student and of the subject which will assist them. However, an “insider” also has “insider knowledge” about how he/she learns best and about what helps him/her to learn. To be human “is to live life in a personal world that carries a sense of how things are for that person.” This personal knowledge about what is particular and individual about how each child learns is important knowledge that teachers should be seeking. However, “insiders” don’t just wait to be asked, they have a voice which they can use to inform teachers and peers about what they know about themselves as learners - what assists them and what doesn’t help in the learning process.
The other day, I interviewed some year 5 and 6 students about aspects of their learning. Here are some quotes from them. It strikes me that they know quite a lot about learning and quite a lot about their learning.
Advice to teachers: “Challenge me a bit more – I never want anything to be easy. I don’t want to waste my time in learning. I want to keep progressing and progressing. Every time give me something new.”
Advice to teachers: “Make groups of people who have just the same levels of learning and teach us exactly what we need to know – teachers do this sometimes but not enough. Give a big snapper and then go off to try it ourselves. Let us try hard to work it out for ourselves for maybe 15 - 30 mins. Then give students the opportunity to opt into snappers about the thing they are stuck on.”
“Teachers do listen to us if we tell them it is hard. Teachers do ask whether we are stuck and need help. Sometimes I try it when it is too hard, but sometimes I try it for too long.”
“Teachers know me pretty well. Some teachers know me lots. If teachers know me well, they know what I need to do to be better at learning. If they know me well, I will keep progressing because they will give me the work I need. If they don’t know me well, they might give me work I find too easy.”
“Sometimes I will tell a teacher if it is too hard. I will tell them if I have done it before. They might say, “Oh cool, but you might need a recap.”” Sometimes teachers respond. I definitely tell them if it is too hard.”