The pilot programme is focused on three elements: a knowledge-rich curriculum, whole-class teaching and teacher-led instruction. What’s important in the Government’s approach, however, is ensuring that ‘teacher-led’ doesn’t minimise the importance of the need for children to take ownership of their own education. The Montessori approach for example, perhaps the antithesis of ‘teacher-led’ has produced exceptional outliers such as Jeff Bezos, Larry Page and Sergey Brin. It’s important to recognize that there is no ‘one-size fits all’ methodology, so why not make sure we take the very best bits from all approaches?
So how do we take useful child-led elements from the likes of Montessori, apply them to existing classroom methods, and not overburden teachers with more work?
Best-selling non-fiction author Christopher Lloyd has launched a new initiative to raise awareness of the importance of an interconnected, cross-curricular approach to knowledge and education. He says, “Only by connecting knowledge back together again can children learn to think out of the box, develop critical thinking skills and become their own self-learning systems.”
As the Institute of Education’s Ruth Dann says, “Recognition of the importance of curiosity is evident in policy directives and regulatory frameworks governing both the teaching profession and the curriculum”. And now a pilot based on Lloyds latest book Absolutely Everything, the ‘Curiosity Curriculum’, gives pupils the opportunity to develop their own learning journey along a world history timeline that spans 3000 years. As they travel on six subject lines, rather than being told what to learn, students choose from a library of hundreds of Challenges spread across the timeline. The lines intersect, and the pupils must constantly hop between the different subjects in order to progress.
Taking another approach, at Learn2Think we are developing a way for pupils to cultivate their critical thinking through questioning skills, whilst working within existing lesson formats. Questioning can be seen as a measure of engagement and of depth of thinking. By pupils asking the questions they get to own their own ‘knowledge goals’. A. Ram, whose background is in computer science, states: “The ability to ask questions is central to the process of learning, reasoning and understanding,” supporting Choinard’s claim that, “The content of children’s questions parallel their conceptual advances.”
It is telling that levels of questioning fall off from the age of 5, and continue to diminish as children move through the school system. Is this because they’ve just stopped asking questions or because their motivations and engagement have plummeted?
Is it because we assume that asking questions is something children are born with, so we don’t need to teach it? Is it just a thing we do naturally? Does asking questions imply a degree of ‘not knowing’, which pupils are reluctant to admit to? Do teacher’s find the asking of questions disruptive?
Learn2Think believe that if teachers are given a framework for question generation at certain points of the lesson, and pupils learn to use questions to further their own learning, questioning can be a powerful tool for teachers to increase levels of engagement whilst still leading the process.
And don’t forget, if you want to encourage your children to engage in some questioning, enter your pupils in the Learn2Think Young Journalism Competition, part of Tolerance Day 2018. For more information http://www.toleranceday.org/young-journalist-prize-2018.html
Further detail of the Curiosity programme can be found at www.gocuriosity.com