The principle of school choice is not as simple as upholding the rights of autonomy of families to make decisions about the education of their children. There are important considerations related to social justice, social cohesion, and so on. Private schools which are permitted to charge tuition are often able to generate large operating budgets, which can enable them to create better educational opportunities for the students there. This effectively allows wealthy parents to give their children an advantage over children from poor families, which undermines the principles of social justice. Charter schools with voucher systems, which allow families to effectively transfer their child's portion of public education funding from one school to the next, attempt to circumvent this issue by providing full public funding without any allowance for additional tuition fees. However, even in these cases, although financial inputs may be equal, there is still a social justice issue, because only the most active and engaged families (often those with the most educated parents) will do the research and leg work to make the best choices for their child's educationRead More
Classroom management refers to the way in which the classroom is structured, managed, and maintained by or with the teacher. It is often understood more narrowly in terms of the management and regulation of student behaviour, but optimally goes beyond this to include other aspects of classroom life, such as the organization and maintenance of the physical environment. Operationally, classroom management is usually carried out through a combination of the following elements: social norms; rules, and consequences for breaking rules; positive expectations; role modelling; good pedagogical relationships; positive peer pressure; routines and procedures for doing things; well designed learning activities that interest and engage students, and so on.Read More
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
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
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
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
With the understanding that democratic citizenship is cultivated through experience, the operational question becomes one of how to create this experience. To embrace democracy in this manner is not to subjugate adult authority in the school to the masses of children surrounding them. Rather, it is to provide students, each passing year, with incrementally more sophisticated opportunities to apply their knowledge and skills and cultivate their character and dispositions, through appropriate activities, with adult supervision and guidance.
With reflection, it is possible to see opportunities for mainstreaming democratic principles into students' daily experiences in school. This section provides a number of potentially high impact entry points for infusing democracy into school life. Other possibilities abound, as almost all contextual factors affecting students' experiences--Read More
The Basic Concept
Student assessment is prominent in most education systems, and its prominence is only increasing in the age of market-based education development, comparative rankings under the guise of accountability, and "scientific" reform. But assessment is implemented in a huge variety of ways.
One fundamental distinction in assessment is that of intent. We can differentiate between assessment for learning, which is formative and ongoing, and assessment of learning, which is usually just summative. Generally, summative assessment will tend towards the formal, whereas formative assessment can include formal testing or be as informal as teacher observation. While most assessment is carried out by some kind of adult authority figure, we should also give consideration to students' involvement as co-assessors, throughRead More
Education's role in democracy is simple to understand, but the mechanism for fulfilling this role is harder to conceptualize. On the one hand, we recognize that citizens need a sound education to participate effectively in democratic life. But on the other hand, the specific learning required cannot be fully elaborated in terms of knowledge and skills in the existing subject disciplines. How, within our current curricula, are we expected to cultivate the requisite civic virtues, things like autonomy, justice, and civic respect? Where, within the framework of our current subject disciplines, do we acknowledge the importance of students becoming engaged critically with issues of democratic importance?
Most contemporary approaches to education mask the political concern over how we are cultivating our citizens, with a technical concern over efficiency in teaching content.Read More
Below is the text of my presentation to the 18CCEM Ministerial Roundtable on Bridging the Gap Between Policy and Practice in Education for Sustainable Development.
Greetings, honorable ministers and esteemed delegates. I am honoured to have the opportunity to speak with you.
I was invited here to share with you a report I worked on earlier this year, funded by the Commonwealth Secretariat. The report analyzed the implementation of Education for Sustainable Development, or ESD, in Small Island Developing States. This study originated from discussions around the impacts of climate change, to which small states are particularly vulnerable. Recognizing that small states comprise a significant proportion of the member countries of theRead More