Friday, 8 August 2014

Independent life-long learners in a restrictive system.

I have hit a bit of a conundrum (quite like this word) in my senior classes. In my History classes I have my students do 2 research assignments each year. In both Year 11 and 12, Ancient and Modern History. I try and keep the topics nice and broad to give students I diverse range of topics to select from. In my Business classes I do something similar to encourage creativity in marketing with the choices they could make and how they can present it. All these subjects lend themselves to allow students to be creative and to tap into their own interest. 

Now I have two problems. Firstly the Queensland system. The senior system follow Verification and Monitoring procedures, where a panel of teachers get together for a region and review student work. They look for evidence matching the criteria in the students work to make sure an A, B, C, etc is consistent across the state. Last year I had students produce a range of multimodal and written tasks that were brilliant, and of the highest quality. But, I got criticised by certain panellists that they struggled to find high A-standard evidence in these types of assessments because they have never attempted doing it themselves or seen it done like this . Some students wrote music lyrics and score for an Ancient History unit on Judaism, there was a board game for the Egyptian afterlife, video documentaries, websites for conference presentations, historical fiction, graphic novels. These I find fascinating and the students love the choices that allow them to express history research in different formats. 

Secondly, there are students that struggle with the freedom and being asked to be independent. They want you to tell them the answers, tell them what to do, give them the topic. They have been conditioned into believing that they cannot do it themselves or come up with their own suitable ideas. I don't know how they have gotten to this point and it is an uphill battle to change this thinking. 

Quite often our education system is very rigid with not a lot of scope for creativity in senior classes, and the focus is always on ticking boxes. The students often do not really invest themselves in the learning process, all they are after are the grades. I'm trying to change this, as there is so much scope and fascinating areas in History and even in Business (mainly marketing and not-for profit ventures). I'm hoping my passion for the subjects, my drive to see them excel no matter what methods they use to present their tasks; and that their own interests are grown and developed. I don't want 20 students doing exactly the same writing, presentation, topics or responses. I want them to be individual, creative, critical, independent and have their own intrinsic motivation for learning. That is the challenge, to develop these independent life-long learners in a restrictive system.