Aroundsquare's activities are diverse, but they have a single centre of gravity. They all have to do with helping to build a better world by supporting healthy learning and development. So we make toys that spark creativity and encourage active play. And we support educational initiatives all over the world, and especially those that are focused on empowering young people to help transform their communities, to make them more peaceful, more sustainable, and more just.Read More
With the support of the Council for a Community of Democracies, Aroundsquare's Matthew Hiebert recently had the opportunity to participate in a panel presentation on fostering democracy through education, hosted by the International Foundation for Democracy Education. The esteemed panelists included Lee Arbetman, Executive Director of Street Law, Augusta Featherston, Regional Program Officer with IFES, and Romina Kasman, Coordinator of the Inter-American Program on Education for Democratic Values and Practices at the Organization of American States.
A video recording of the webcast for the event, along with links to downloadable materials provided by the speakers, can be found on the IFES website.Read More
I've been doing a little bit of writing recently, and a couple of presentations. I thought it would be worthwhile to put the pieces all together in one spot here for anyone interested.
Hiebert, M. (2013). Strengthening democratic culture: Education about, for, and in democracy. Presented to the Community of Democracies Education Working Group. Warsaw, Poland.
Hiebert, M. (2013). Best practices review and gap analysis. In Council for a Community of Democracies (Ed.) Best practices manual on democracy education (pp. 37-52). Washington, DC: Council for a Community of Democracies.Read More
A variety of tensions inevitably result during any process of change. Many teachers feel these tensions when implementing transformative educational approaches, because they are very different from traditional ways of teaching. It's the same situation, whether we're talking about education for democracy, education for sustainable development, student centred approaches, or whatever the case may be. Teachers must strive to find the right balance between extremes, in order to mediate these tensions and be as effective as possible in the classroom.
Balance 1: Explicit and Tacit
Much of the discussion in this Guidebook has been about tacit learning, and the role of contextual factors in students’ experiences. However, most curricula, and mostRead More
It's easy to talk about why democracy education is important. It's easy to pull together content about democracy.. even stuff for kids. But it's a lot hard to conceptualize what the practice of democracy education should look like. Clearly it doesn't just involve sitting and listening to lectures about democracy. But then what? Building on some of the work I did last year on education for democracy, I have developed a new guidebook for educators on how to put some of the theory into practice, and how to support some of the content with authentic experiences doing democracy.
The guidebook is actually an application of something deeper that I'm working on.. Aroundsquare's social transformation model. I'm exploring how we might, if we really want it, undertake to make some meaningful changes in our societies, in ourRead More
A lot of my work recently has been on the idea of adjectivizing education--making education more aligned with a particular set of values and principles, such as those related to sustainability, democracy, social justice, and so on. In doing this, I've found it necessary to elaborate on the idea of intentionality.
The basic premise for a lot of my work is that if we want to go beyond educating *about* a certain subject, and actually educate in a way that will create some social movement towards the related ideal, then we need to go beyond talking about the content of instruction, and look at the actual educational experience of students. This frames education as a formative act, rather than an informative one. It is concerned with the deep development of students, not just head stuffing.Read More
The physical classroom is often seen in purely functional terms, with the desks organized to keep students from talking, and the walls, if used, mainly to post rules and notices, or to reinforce the main content taught. Democracy requires deliberative processes, and education for democracy requires discussion in classrooms. Classroom discussion should not always be led by the teacher, because students need to develop the capacity to converse and disagree and resolve differences on their own, and with support. This process can be facilitated by configuring desks in a way which encourages face-to-face interaction between students. Teachers can try different configurations of desks depending on the types of activities which they are involving students in. The use of floor space should not be taken for granted, and can be adapted to a variety of purposes.Read More
Imagine two students, in two classrooms, in two very similar schools. Imagine that the two students are alike in many ways. They both come from similar family backgrounds and live in similar communities. They are both well-meaning and earnest children. They both have loving parents, with the average ups and downs of the average family. While they have much in common, chance has separated Jane and Sally.
Jane spends her days in a traditional classroom. It is quiet and orderly. The teacher maintains excellent control over her pupils. The desks are arranged into neat rows, and anyone walking in would be struck by the diligence and obedience of the students. At any given moment, an observer would hear just one of two sounds, the teacher's well-practiced lecture, or the quiet hum of students working at their desks.Read More
I recently had an exchange with a friend and former colleague from one of today's fragile new democracies, who has been involved in education reform in his country for a long time. Our discussion was about the recent events in his country, the breakdown of any effort towards constructive dialogue, and the sharp rise in violence. In thatRead More
While it's almost certainly the case that context trumps content in terms of the deep lessons we are teaching our students, it's not entirely the case that the medium is the message. It still matters what we say. In implementing education for democracy, we need to consider how we can better infuse the content of instructionRead More
Classroom management, including discipline and behavior management, can be seen to represent the role of adult authority over children, and repression, in general. The analogy to the relationship between citizens and their government is obvious, and therefore, it is important that teachers pay careful attention to how they areRead More
Assessment, especially exams, is a major feature in most education systems around the world. From the standpoint of democratizing the educational experience, both the “what” and the “how” of assessment can be problematic. In terms of “what” is being assessed, testing too often targets rote memorization or low-levelRead More
Perhaps the biggest single factor in reorienting students’ experiences to support democracy is a shift in pedagogy from traditional lecture-oriented instruction to student-centered active learning approaches. Teachers are accustomed to thinking about what “content” students will learn in a lesson, and this leads to thinking aboutRead More
Sustainable development is a concept with an inherent tension. If we look at development as being linked to growth, as we often do. And if we recognize our planet as a closed system, which we often fail to. Then the tension becomes evident--within a closed system, growth can't be sustained indefinitely. Inhabitants of smallRead More
Schooling has no purpose. What is has is a function. They're not the same thing. The difference is about awareness and intentionality. Maybe there was some kind of purpose when the system was first established. And maybe some people in the system would claim that it still has one. If there's something there, it would relate toRead More
This book is a classic, and as famous as it is, and as old, I wish it were more widely read today. I found a link here where the full text is available online. The book has raises some good questions around what education is and could be, which are still very current. The second chapter is particularly worth reading - the medium is theRead More
Education for Sustainable Development in Small Island Developing States
Abstract: Education for sustainable development (ESD) is an essential element of the global response to environmental challenges. It helps young people understand and address the impact of global warming,Read More
The movie embedded below is a copy of the presentation I gave at the Asia-Pacific Regional Conference of the Community of Democracies, 17 January 2013, Jawaharlal Nehru Bhawan, New Delhi. The curriculum described in the presentation is very relevant to work of Aroundsquare, because it underscores the importance of aligningRead More
While the importance of education in a democratic society is quite obviously, the specifics of an education that contributes to the development of a healthy democracy are subtler. We immediately recognize that citizens need a sound and meaningful education to be able to participate effectively in democratic life. But, when we think about what learning is required, we soon realize that this can’t be entirely described by knowledge and skills—the way we usually think about educational outcomes. What’s more, much of the learning required for active democratic citizenship does not really fit within the framework of existing subject disciplines. How, within our current curricula, are we expected to cultivate civic virtues such as autonomy, justice, and mutual respect? Where, within the context math, or science, or even social studies, do we meaningfully contribute to students’ engagement with civic life?Read More
The hidden curriculum as a concept was a good starting point, but it's also a dead end. The value is in what it is looking at, and the constraint is how it does that. The hidden curriculum refers to the various things that students learn in school that are not part of the formal or explicit curricula. The idea is almost always presented in a negative or critical light, stressing the way in which tacit aspects of the schooling experience serve to condition students into accepting the status quo and internalizing hegemonic structures.
The important revelation in this idea is that there is a lot being learned in school which is not directly linked to teacher talk and textbooks. The hidden curriculum was called hidden because it is not always easy to spot. It exists somewhere beneath the surface of what we are used to paying attention to in classrooms. It relates to the assumptions weRead More