Life School Vision
A Vision for a Future Learning Model - COVID 19 Pandemic 2020 and Beyond.
Life School is a vision that I have for a future learning model to support teachers, students and parents during the current COVID19 pandemic and the subsequent need for isolation schooling. I also believe that this is an opportunity to reinvent schooling to reflect the needs of the 21st Century learner, teacher and family.
The Current Situation
It is apparent that the needs of many teachers and students are not being met by the current model of education. Educational research for the past 30 years has supported a shift in pedagogy towards more self directed learning, play based learning, physical movement, nature engagement and high impact teaching strategies such as reflection, feedback, explicit teaching and inquiry learning.
Teachers have been doing their best to make learning in schools reflect ‘real life’ by using hands on approaches and inquiry learning. Unfortunately, with the constraints on teachers with regard to timetables, class numbers and obligations beyond face to face teaching such as assessment, accountability and meeting the social and emotional needs of students, the strain on teachers is evident. I myself represent a growing number of passionate and experienced teachers who have left the profession in despair.
Now is the time for 21st Century Education. I and many others around the world are passionate about this topic. I have faith that you too believe that children are innately curious beings. As humans we are programmed to learn. Provided children feel safe, have access to nutritious food, have opportunities for movement and are able to engage with nature, then learning is happening. Although not all families can provide this environment, schools can. This amazing experience, the COVID 19 Pandemic, that engulfs us all is the learning. There is so much information to take in, so many adjustments to make and opportunities for innovation, reflection and connection.
The schools already have the infrastructure and resources for 21st Century education. The Building an Education Revolution (BER) initiative by the Victorian state government many years ago, which saw most schools adopt open plan classrooms, already provides the physical environment. The current willingness and amazing dexterity and commitment of teachers to adapt to the COVID 19 pandemic and subsequent distance learning requirements, demonstrates that schools themselves are capable of implementing a revolution in education now.
Food for Thought.
The attached curriculum, assessment and pedagogy could be applied to all schools and provide the equanimity that is required for universal education. This curriculum I originally designed to reflect high impact teaching strategies through a democratic and self directed learning model for an independent creative school. The basis of this curriculum has already been approved by VRQA and ISV.
The Life School Curriculum may be applied equally to an onsite school setting or to the current distance learning model. It focuses on meaningful activities while addressing individual needs and opportunities for focussed teaching and assessment. I believe that this curriculum could be adopted by schools across Australia and the world. The units of inquiry allow for all areas of the curriculum to be covered while addressing the current quarantine conditions and the ongoing climate emergency.
Since adopting home education and unschooling for my own children over the past 4 years, I have seen over and over again that all Key Learning Areas (KLAs) are more than addressed through everyday activities.
I am proposing that schools adopt a school wide unit of inquiry that is relevant to our current situation. Each primary teacher offers 1 hour per week, one to one tutoring with each student from their class, online or onsite, to support them with their learning. I trust teachers will embrace the opportunity to engage meaningfully and personally with their students. Students with additional needs may get more teacher time. All teachers across a school could be booked for online/ onsite tuition, just as is done for parent/ teacher interviews, just more frequently and more meaningful. Families book times that suit them. Schools could offer on site tuition for families without internet access or for whom home is not a safe environment.
Teachers will naturally see patterns from their individual student conferences and then offer focused teaching sessions to support students at their zone of proximal development, regardless of their ‘grade’. Individual Curriculum Achievement Maps (see sample Individual Curriculum Achievement Map, ICAM) would both record student progress and provide the data for explicit teaching. Teachers would invite students to attend the focused teaching sessions online or onsite.
This is the model I propose for the current distance education required as a result of the need for social distancing. I believe it would offer teachers and students everything they need and set up the system for a revolutionised approach upon our return to the bricks and mortar. Every student will have an individual education plan, the digital literacy skills, inquiry learning skills and a passion for learning. Every teacher would be granted the respect to do what they do best.
The Future of Onsite Learning in Schools.
After COVID 19 has passed schools will continue to provide a safe environment that provides both the child care required for adults to return to work and a far superior education system that will meet the needs of teachers and all students, by also providing support for families.
School attendance would be completely optional. Families that need their children in care so they can work may send their children to school as needed. Families that want their children in care or formal education may send their children to school. There are no set hours. Schools will be available from 7am - 7pm. Families may join for part or all of the day. The facilities would provide for all ages.
Each BER building in every school would be resourced with teachers following their passion and the resources for their pedagogy. For example, BER buildings, the open plan learning spaces, would house a literacy teacher in one section, a mathematics teacher in one section, an inquiry teacher in one section and allied professionals. Students would be free to play under the supervision of teachers. Maker spaces, gardens, science rooms, art rooms, PE spaces would be available. Students would sign up for what they want to do.
Teachers would be free to offer focussed lessons on topics, subjects and learning outcomes that emerge naturally. Teachers would be supported with professional development (particularly in supporting students with Dyslexia and Autism), allied professionals and experts from the community.
Teachers would be given the respect and freedom that they need to do their job effectively. Students would be given the respect, freedom and ultimate learning environment that they deserve.
Research proves that movement, nature engagement, music and a relaxed vagus nerve are crucial to facilitating learning and improving student learning outcomes. Feeling safe is imperative to students’ executive functioning and underlying capacity to learn. Having the resources available to support student inquiry, passion and interests would ensure all students receive the individualised education that we teachers currently strive for. Schools currently have the resources to provide all of the above. With a more flexible approach to learning I suspect school budgets would also improve.
There are many 21st Century schools already operating around the world. Now is the time for Australia to make the much needed shift.
I have been a primary teacher for over 20 years with experience in leadership as Head of School at the Australian International School Indonesia, and as a Curriculum Coordinator, Literacy Coordinator, Classroom Teacher, Special Needs Teacher and Team Leader in primary schools across Victoria, Western Australia and internationally. I have worked in the private, government and independent sectors including an aboriginal community in WA, an islamic school in Broadmeadows, several public schools and an emerging creative and democratic school in Melbourne. In 2017 I was Secretary of the Board for the School of Creative Education. Since 2018 I have been running my own business, Naturally Learning, where I provide support, as an Educator, to the Home Education community. My own children are currently educated at home. I felt compelled to share this curriculum at this time.
Play is children's work.