Monday, 16 May 2016

Michael Fullan believes we are on the verge of a revolutionary educational transformation: Pearson's role in education

A Rich Seam : How Pedagogies Find Deep Learning.

Mining a seam of educational insight.

 Disclaimer:Warning to readers

I have to admit to being unsure about Michael Fullan, the role of  the Pearson Publishing Company and Charter schools but their are times, perhaps , when one should put such biases to one side?

Having said that, and 'researched' Pearson, I worry about a company claiming to be the 'worlds leading learning organisation'  and that I have may have been somewhat captured by the 'Rich Seam' document. Pearson  make their money out of textbooks, testing and now technology. Making money is at the core - this education as a business.
A corporate takeover of education?

Pearson's version of 'personalized learning' relies on 'data driven analytics' and technology to ensure  learning. Some of the schools following a 'Pearson's approach' look more like high powered traditional schools with students learning through digital technology. My preference is the New High Tech approach, which is also referenced in the 'Rich Seams' document - a real world activity based school making use of a wide range of technology from carpentry tools to computers.

The issue of the 'new' Modern School Environments

I recent times I have been thinking about  the movement towards the development of flexible  Modern School Environments (MLEs) and that the provision of such buildings , equipped with modern information technology,  are being seen as the latest 'silver bullet' to transform schools. 

Which brings me  the Pearson document 'A Rich Seam'  of which Michael Fullan is a co-author.
Michael Fullan

I have found it worth the read and was interested to note that it states ' in our view new'  (Modern Learning Environments) 'facilities are nice, but not a requirement for effective implementation of the new pedagogy model.'

The goal of this report is to outline a new vision of education to ensure all students develop the dispositions to be 'creative, connected, and collaborative  life long long problem solvers... able to contribute to the common good.'

Hard to argue with that.
The authors believe that several forces are converging that will result in a revolution transformation of educational provision as we know it ; an educational 'perfect storm'.

The reason  for the inevitability of  dramatic educational changes are multiple:

Our current model is based on the sorting of people  resulting  inevitably in  school failures . The challenge now  to ensure all students leave schooling able to thrive in the future.

Students, as they 'progress' through the system find school programmes irrelevant and are increasingly bored and alienated. As well students have  growing tendency to gain their knowledge elsewhere by means of digital technology.

Traditional schools  do not provide students with the outcomes students need to thrive  in an unpredictable future.The report  says ,that literacy and numeracy, vital as they are,  are insufficient. All students need the wider, less well-defined outcomes, such as 'problem solving, collaboration, creativity, thinking in different ways, and building effective relationships and teams.'

Makes me think of five things  that are relevant in the New Zealand environment:

One: the need for schools to really implement the intent of the New Zealand Curriculum and to move away from National Standards.  Two:The need base learning on real world active
To 'seek , use and create'.
problem solving  tasks'  Three: the need to 're-framing literacy and numeracy' to provide the skills to needed to undertake such tasks.  Four: The need to develop new ways of assessing student progress  moving away from the 'sorting' required by National Standards. The report identifies current assessment and accountability model as the major barriers to the new  'deep' learning. And Five: the use of information technology  to assist learners in their research and   in communicating their findings. The report states that so far digital technology has not fulfilled it promiseIf the ideas in the report are implemented technology 'will finally begin to realize its promise to transform teaching and learning.'

One phrase from the New Zealand Curriculum comes to mind, aligning the report with the intent of 'A Rich Seam', is that all students should become  'seekers, users and creators of their own knowledge'.

Dewey would see technology as tools - a means to an end.

The report  acknowledges that much that is described is not new and  reaches back to the writings of Dewey, Piaget and Vygotsky but strangely no mention of more recent educators who have been expressing similar thoughts. Perhaps Pearson ( and Fullan ) don't want to share their work with others?

Play  means more than computer play

The authors emphasizes that the 'new' pedagogy they articulate is emerging from the 'front line' in the classrooms they visited.

The Report describes three forces that are converging to break open learning possibilities.

The first force 'the new pedagogies'  springs from the new learning partnerships between teachers and students that will be amplified with the use of  digital technology.

The second is 'change  leadership'  which 'merges top down and bottom and sideways energies'.

The last is economics that ensures that the provision of the first two forces more affordable.

My worry is that learning could too easily become too dominated by digital technology  rather than activity based learning supported by technology. 

The  'new pedagogies' are premised  on partnerships between teachers and learners aiming towards 'deep learning' goals enabled  by technology. The authors freely admit that 'these ideas are not new but that the conditions for these idea to take hold and flourish did not exist'. 'Old' pedagogies were all about delivering and covering content  - the 'new' is about 'mutual discovery creation and use of knowledge'.

'Deep learning' requires 'deep learning tasks' and is not about 'flipped classrooms'  Teachers need to be seen as 'activators', rather than facilitators, enabling students 'to lead their own learning'. Teachers help their students achieve worthwhile results by providing  encouraging feedback and encouragement and by   negotiating  learning challenges with their students . 

Deep learning tasks must last long enough for students to plan and develop their work. Such tasks  encompasses the intent of  project  and inquiry based models of learning. Chosen tasks must be defined by student purpose and allow students to demonstrate their learning  giving  students 'choice and voice'.

The teachers role in developing the new pedagogies is about 'igniting learning, to kindle student creativity and to light up the students' mind.' This requires teachers developing genuine learning partnership with  their students  moving away from being facilitators to  work alongside their students to  ensure  all students achieve their personal best. Teachers need to help students  learn through mistakes  helping students to think about what they might do next time. This involves helping students define and refine chosen tasks and  to encourage continual improvement. Through such means students are able to present final quality products or performances. .

This is a good description of personalized learningIt is about helping students find, what Sir Ken Roberson calls, 

Sir Ken is talking about developing all students gifts and talents.

their passions; and it is about what creative teachers have always done.  

This new pedagogy highly values such non academic dimensions such as  problem solving strategies and character elements such as  as grit, tenacity, facing up to difficult tasks, and learning through mistakes. 

Such an approach aims at the development of  students who are  self regulating able to develop their own learning goals , success criteria and  to  monitor their own progress.

The  above the report indicates, will require  the development of new assessment measures.

Not clear to me, however, is how traditional literacy and numeracy is to be embedded in such learning. I believe that powerful learning experiences provide the motivation to develop such skills from an early age. Current ability grouped basic skills teaching takes up far too much time and develops to develop negative attitudes  for far too many students.

Also not clear is how schools might be structured to develop such pedagogy - traditional subject teaching is no longer relevant.  Maybe this is where Modern Learning Environments,  based on collaborative  integrated teaching, may solve the problem.  
Teachers then digital ctechnlogy

After reading, and agreeing with, the pages about deep pedagogy I am still left wondering why the authors made no  effort to identify educationalists that have been expressing similar ideas for decades?

Nothing much, as they say, is really new. .

I would have also liked to have seen examples of how schools have organised themselves to develop cross curricula interdependent tasks. As mentioned I  particularly like the approach developed by Larry Rosenstock's  New Tech High Schools -  where technology  is used to support learning in very creative way and where public exhibitions of student  project work have become part of the school culture.
Larry  Rosenstock - New High Teach Schools. Active learning making use of technology

What is the New Change Leadership?

The leadership section might well be the most important aspect of the report  if the required deep pedagogy is take hold in our schools. Their role is mirrors teachers releasing the potential of their students.
Leadership about direction and trust

'These new change leaders will have to operate under conditions of dynamic change We see the process as consisting of directional vision, letting go and reining in across iterative cycles. Such leaders will need to open up possibilities with directional ideas but not necessarily concrete plans'. The need to be 'open to  new explorations while supporting people under conditions of ambiguity'. 'As the process unfolds leaders will need to help others identify, refine and spread what is working.'

This is a model of organic change and with the right conditions ideas will become 'contagious'.
Good ideas are contageous

Change leadership is about developing culture and capacity

Changes , 'as new pedagogy takes hold  it is neither top down nor bottom up change. It is both. The role of leaders is to simultaneously help the organisation "let go" and "rein in"'. 'It  is about creating a  'risk taking' culture of yes' About 'creating a collaborative culture breaking down teacher isolation' by  'building up a common language' and by 'developing an 'inquiry based approach' to professional development.

It also requires developing new ways of assessing progress.that primarily focused on to supporting learning.

 'Change leadership represents a huge challenge - one that is as attractive as it is daunting'An ideal agenda for Communities of Schools?

What is the New System Economics.

This recognizes  that as the  cost of new technology is decreasing schools will able to deliver  'twice the  learning for the same level of investment - 'technology that can dramatically expand the new pedagogies'. 

 Implementing the  'A Rich Seam is all about developing 'Rich Futures'.

The report concludes by reinforcing the need for a new model of education one based on new partnerships between teachers and students.

The authors believe 'we are at the early stages of a learning revolution to develop 'the citizen of the future as a knowing, doing person who can function productively in a complex world.'

Specific action lists are provided for students, teachers and school leaders to ensure school change.
Creating conditions to risk things and share ideas

'History shows us that what we can imagine we can make possible'. The new pedagogy, new change leadership and  the economic availability of digital technology. 'The time has come to take advantage of this once in a generation opportunity. Whole System change has never been more achievable'.

'The ultimate goal is interdependent learners who have the abilities, dispositions and experiences to truly make the this  most of the extraordinary world of information, ideas, creativity and connection that digital access opens up'.

At this point I  still have this worry that it is possibly all too much about computers and not real world challenges making use of digital technology.
Technology as a tool

'Young people and adults alike have the natural instinct to learn and to create. This is what the new pedagogies can unleash'. 'The pedagogies model promises to drive out of our schools the boredom and alienation of students and teachers.' 

'The next decade could be the most transformation of any since the creation of factory model schools 150 years ago'. 

'Imagine a future where students and teacher can't wait to get to the learning'.

Sound like what was in the air in the 60s - let's hope that we will do it better this time - and ensure digital technology plays a supportive role.


I finish as I began worried about Pearson's agenda and Michael Fullan's role in it.  Education is big business. The document is  essentially all about spreading Pearson's digital  learning agenda.

I  did like the 'new pedagogy ( which isn't new) and the 'change leadership'  model, and the need for new assessment models ( but not digital data mining ). 

I remained  concerned with an educational approach that might well replace reality with clever vicarious learning.

 I am  reminded of what Clifford Still ( himself a computer expert) said, in his book 'Silicon Valley Snake Oil', that for every hour facing a screen a person needs an hour siting under a tree to compensate.

I still believe that real world challenges are the  basis of learning - supported by technology. A  quote  by Max Frisch is more relevant than ever . He wrote  that technology is the 'knack of so arranging the world that we don't have to experience it'. ( Max Frisch 63) 

from leading and learning

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