Does ‘lockdown learning’ question conventional education?
From a article on Child and Family Blog
Angeline Lillard, Professor of Psychology at the University of Virginia and Director of the Early Development Laboratory there, comments that lockdown learning has highlighted how schools fail to build on children’s natural ways of learning; through their independent curiosity and learning approaches.
She suggests that many parents are recognising a disturbing truth revealed by the COVID-19 crisis: school is often regimented and boring and do not fit the way that their children learn naturally. Parents are spending their days encouraging their children to do activities that schools require to be completed at home: filling in worksheets and completing internet-based tasks. It's a tedious regime, but neither parents nor children have much idea of what they might do instead. Some parents are questioning conventional educational approaches that have been embedded in school systems for nearly two centuries. Is change long overdue?
On the plus-side, COVID-19 is also highlighting how education might change for the better. Lockdown learning has proved more fruitful for some households than others. Some children engage with what is around them: they are better able to thrive while in lockdown. For example, children have walked around their neighbourhoods to spot and count the colours of people’s front doors and then made bar graphs. Others went looking for symmetrical and asymmetrical shapes in their homes and neighbourhoods and reported back. They are not staring at computer screens or filling in worksheets all day.
This difference in experience is highlighting to parents a gulf between how many children are taught in schools and alternative approaches which recognise that children build understanding through active interaction more than by listening; by ‘constructing’ what they learn rather than being told.
Conventional schooling relies much more on a teacher-text-centred model of education. For over 150 years, much of the world has used this model, which depends primarily on teachers (helped by textbooks and computers) telling children what others think they need to know. This approach has been widely adopted because it makes sense to adults, who seem to learn in a linear fashion from what they are told or read. Teachers are also quite knowledgeable, so it stands to reason that they should tell children what they need to know. Children are often framed as ‘blank slates’, which fits with a model of teachers transforming children by giving them information and making them learn it. Many parents, with school direction, are now trying to follow this model at home.
But this conventional approach is fundamentally flawed. We can see how children naturally develop. Outside of school, young children actively teach themselves. We don’t set up a blackboard.
Teacher-text-centred learning has survived its own inadequacies thanks to the introduction of incremental changes that prevent its collapse. These include grading and examinations to stimulate the flagging interest that children have in this unnatural type of learning. More recently, high stakes testing of whole schools has further pushed teachers to conform to the model. COVID-19 though has removed some of the incentives that usually maintain the system – standardised exams have been dropped this year for many children.
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