Saturday, 7 July 2018

The story of trends

This is a post where I explore the idea of trending in education...
this is something that I have looked at before, but feel the urge to explore it again...
especially after reading this post -
Why Low-tech is trending in education - when here in Sweden it is all about digital learning that is trending, and that is so apparent in the proposal for the new preschool curriculum. This made me think... should a curriculum be specifying trends in this way? Or should it be phrased in a more open way? So that ALL media are seen with equal value and not some (that are trending at the moment) are seen with more value... because we do not know what the future holds...
I am not saying that the digital world should be ignored, what I am saying is that it is one of many learning languages to express thoughts, ideas and explore.

A few days ago I posted about The Political Nature of the Reggio Emilia Approach and part of that post was a TEDtalk about the dangers of a single story... and I think trends are a part of this... we get fixated on an idea and follow that trend, and quite often trends are not being questioned, or pulled apart or fully understood as they should be... they are simply followed... and it becomes a single story.

Sometimes a "trend" is not fully understood which means that only a part of it is being spread... for instance within The Reggio Emilia Approach is is often the aesthetics rather than the the full complexity of the approach where our view of the child is explored - and the child is seen as competent and capable and a co-learner, where democratic learning and listening is integral to the approach, where it is about the whole community, etc etc and not just what the classroom looks like.

At the same time trends are almost a necessity... they are spoon fed alternatives to the status quo... which sadly is the only option in a profession that is  valued so little, that not enough time or resources are available... to be truly reflective there needs to be more time for teachers to explore pedagogy and ideas individually and, more importantly, together as a team without it impacting he children.
There needs to be enough time for educators to meet and discuss the children, discuss their teaching methods, explore research and pedagogical approaches etc so that they can evolve and also properly understand... that theory supports their practice, and that their practice is based on their understanding of the theory - so if they do not understand the theory it is going to impact the quality of their practice. If they are only given access to certain elements of pedagogical approaches, then they are not getting the whole story.

Also I think when it is trends, what happens is that you are just window dressing your status quo... the core of your practice is not being addressed it tends to be a change that barely scratches the surface. This, I feel, impacts diversity.
Diversity of ideas, of gender, of religion, race, politics etc etc...
Its kind of like changing the colour of your computer without changing the programming... we need to update the whole system, not just make it look prettier, or more expensive or more modern... The change has to happen within.

A relationship with the third teacher - this post looks at the need to go beyond the look and to meet the needs of the children and the context you find yourself... and to resist the trends, but to create equality.
What is equality? What do we mean by this in the classroom? How do we achieve that? How can we help children become aware of a cultural equality in their greater community if they are in a setting that tells a single story? What does the classroom say? Who does it validate? Who is not seen? And how does that impact us?

Process not product - this post explores how we create learning spaces that are about the process of learning rather than the product of attained goals/grades. About the need of diverse materials and diverse approaches to learning and play... there is not one way to learn, there are many diverse ways to explore the same topic.

Hygge in Preschool - actually this is a bit of an eye-roll at the use of Scandinavian words in the English language and that they are trendy. I mean I am very much in favour of preschools and schools being caring environments, that feel safe and comfortable for the children and staff to develop meaningful relationships that allow genuine learning. But to say we need to create hygge... set the room up in specific ways or do certain activities is lending itself to trend... of stopping listening to the children and doing the whole copy and paste... even if it is with well-meaning intentions...
What do the children YOU work with need to feel safe and secure? How can you develop meaningful relationships with them? How can you design the room so that it is meeting cozy needs of comfort but as well as waking curiosity and stimulating learning?

The story of a dining table - this post was written in response to someone writing that if you were "true Reggio inspired" you had tablecloths on the meal tables... tablecloths do not make you Reggio inspired... but if it is right for your setting... the culture and the context... then of course be my guest, put a table cloth on the meal table and enjoy the experience. What is Reggio is reflecting on how you honour the child... is a tablecloth necessary for that... sometimes maybe, other times not... The important thing is to reflect on how do we create respectful environments for and with the children.

The Early Years has more to do to Embrace Diversity - this is a post written by Laura Henry and explores the need to be more diverse in how we view diversity. We cannot simply think of diversity on one way... most often race and religion... it is so much more complicated than that... and includes the children, the setting, the staff and the families...

outdoor v indoor, learning v play - this post reflects on how we as a profession look at learning and play as well as the indoors and the outdoors... seldom do we talk about all of these things with equal value. Too often outdoor play is promoted as a trend, rather than as a place of natural learning and play... and while I think there is a real need to encourage more outdoor learning and play it is interesting to see how to is being done... "outdoor classrooms" "Forest school" is like shifting one thing to another place rather than evolving, expanding and embracing it all.

Sometimes I think even "risky play" is becoming a trend, rather than there being a full understanding of what risky play is, how it impacts the children now and in the future, and also how it impacts us as educators... how do we develop the skills needed to be a guide of risky play... do we "teach" it, or do we create the space for it... I find many articles about the need for it, but seldom about how to support the educators on how to embrace it in their daily practice. And i think this is the danger of trend... we do not go deep enough, partly because not enough time is given to educators to explore ideas, and partly because critical and creative thinking is still not valued as much as academic thinking. Also the fact that we are raised in a standardised school system with grades and right and wrong answers, we are not used to learning by failing... making mistakes and learning from them is a part of risk taking, it is also a part of process learning... and yet there is seldom room for this kind of practice - it has to be "correct" all the time. Teachers are afraid of reprimand, of getting it wrong - and so would rather hide their mistakes than learn from them... there are of course some brave teachers that defy the system and do what is right, boldly go where no teacher has gone before - and suddenly the universe and its great diversity is available for the children to explore...

1 comment:

  1. Such a relevant post, Suzanne. It is very easy to spot trends now because of social media whereas before we didn't have such immediate access to witness them. It is something I often discuss with colleagues - the whole 'why' of doing something - as a professional, I feel it is important to keep up with new initiatives but to also understand what they will add to my practice and if indeed they can be adapted to my particular setting. Here's to some discussion on this topic later this month!