This week figures from Education Queensland show the number of prep students being suspended in Queensland schools has doubled in two years. It has gone from 184 to 371! See article here. According to the Queensland Education Minister, Cameron Dick, you can be suspended in prep for “Things like not taking proper direction from teachers, acting maybe in a way that’s aggressive in the classroom, or acting in a way that means the class cannot function in the normal way, that is allowing students to learn and teachers to teach“. I wonder if Mr Dicks would be suspended if the behaviour in parliament sittings were judged on this basis! What is going on?
I volunteer at my son’s school and after a few months observing the children’s behaviour, it is pretty clear the kids that do well in the current system and the kids that do not. I understand in a classroom where the teacher is the expert and the children are the students, in a group of 20+ , that behaviour management is critical. A teacher who can’t “control” the children in the room has no hope of teaching. I can see that. BUT, as we know, the world is thankfully made up of all types of people, each with their own personality. What happens to the children who learn through doing, who need to explore to understand, who are not motivated by external rewards and “being good” and are extremely restless sitting on the floor or at their desk for hours at a time? What happens to those who need to talk and express themselves to understand the world? What happens to those who need action and games to learn? Are these our “naughty” children because in a world where children’s education is taught lecture style, expert and student, they drop out or worse still, start believing they really are a “naughty” child? Are these the kids that “cannot function in a normal way“?
In the education world they talk about Pedagogy_Andragogyapproaches to teaching. Pedagogy is the current education approach used to teach in schools and many universities. In Pedagogy, the educational focus is on transmitting, in a very teacher-controlled environment, the content subject matter. In Andragogy, the educational focus is on facilitating the acquisition of and critical thinking about the content and insight. Motivation in a pedagogical environment is based on behaviour theory – reward and punishment. Increasing the desired behavior by using either positive consequences or avoidance of negative stimuli as extrinsic forms of motivation. Rewarding “good” behaviour with stickers and putting the students name on the board if they do not comply or worse still, give them detention, suspension or expelled. In andragogical approach, motivation is based on internal motivators: self-esteem, recognition, better quality of life, self-confidence, self-actualization.
I’d like to propose that the way we are parenting our children combined with today’s world of Nintendo DS’s, Nintendo Wii, X-Box, Playstation DVD’s and Social Media, has developed a huge gap between the classroom and the real world for children. In the 1950’s, the role of the parent was the authoritative figure, and the leap between school and home, teacher and parent, was very little. Today I believe there is a greater gap between school and home, teacher and parent. Many children are used to being self-directed, are encouraged to solve problems and work things out for themselves. Many parents do not play the role of adult/expert, authoritarian figure but rather friend and facilitator. They use dialogue as opposed to “speak only when you’re spoken to”, “I’m the adult and you do what I say”.
When it comes to everyday life, has your child read the instruction manual and had an “expert” teach them how to play the DS/Wii/XBox etc? Are they not having to problem solve, fail then try again to reach the next goal/level? Have they linked to another DS or person online to play against or with them? Have you ever had trouble getting your child to play on the DS/Wii etc? Why is that? Children at a very young age are learning through their own accord for their own intrinsic reasons. They are solving problems for themselves and learning from one another. This is androgogical – this is learner centred education. Children can and do learn this way all the time so why change our approach to children being empty vessels when they go to school?
I’m a big fan of Jane Vella’s work on the Twelve Principles for Effective Adult Learning. I believe these same principles apply whether you are 10 or 60. You can read about her theory Jane Vella but essentially it’s about a change of thinking from a pedagogy – teacher as expert, external motivation approach to a more adrogogy approach – learner centred, intrinsic motivation.
Will the number of children being suspended from school increase? I think it will. Why, because I don’t think the education department is willing or maybe able to get out of the past and move with today. Smartboards in a classroom does not address the archaic approach to teaching. When will they get this and revolutionise?…mmmm…good question.