Elizabeth Ricketts

Primary School Principal, Catholic Education, Parramatta

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If schooling is supposed to be about personalizing learning why do governments continue to impose mandatory syllabi on schools?

Each Key Learning Area or subject has a set of outcomes that must be taught..
How does this fit with discovery learning and enabling students to pursue learning relevant to themselves?

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    Apr 7 2012: I too have noticed that teachers are often prevented from customizing their instruction to students' needs, because the current pedagogical fad is standardization.
  • Apr 6 2012: I partly agree with Robert Winner: it's true that syllabi are meant to give you a good grounding in various subjects, which are necessary to further your studies or advance to the next stage. On the other hand, I think syllabi should be designed in such a way as to make you well disposed towards learning. They should also be more flexible so to allow a teacher to modify the schedule in response to student interests.
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      Apr 7 2012: Great comment Claudio.Flexibility is the key to everything. I am expending a lot of energy on building teacher capacity so teachers are able to modify things within the framework.
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    Apr 6 2012: Who said that schools are about personalized learning? In the states we have public, private, charter, online, and in some areas magnet schools. In every case there are guides such as curriculum, syllabi, and lesson plans to ensure that the student meets prerequisite requirements to advance to the next stage. To take chemistry, physics, computer design, electronics without be benefit of having first taken algerba would be really tough. You appear to think of these tools as restraints while I see them as tools to enhance the opportunity to suceed. You state "enable students to purse learning relevant to themselves". Allow me to follow that. Say you wish to be a dress designer. You would beneit from Home Ecomonics, art, math, science, computer classes, communications, business management, bookkeepping, basic repair classes, economics, etc ... It would be impossible to be just a designer and be sucessful. That is what your school is doing for you. It is providing you with the tools to select and follow your dreams. So my advice to you is to look at the glass of milk as half full and not half empty. Take advantage of the education provided because some day a opportunity may present itself far from what you currently want to do and you will be armed with the basics to pursue the challenge. All the best. Bob.
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    Apr 6 2012: Discovery learning should be compatible with your learning outcomes and standards, or a hybrid of discovery learning and other forms of presentation. While Discovery illustrates a method, and as a method has virtue in its own right, Discovery typically would be guided so that it becomes a way of reaching understanding of fundamental ideas and issues in each content area.
    When a government puts forward content that students should learn, or outcome standards, at every level in school rather than allowing students to "pursue learning relevant to themselves," it is in part because children will typically not know what content or areas are relevant to them. Some children would have guidance from adults who understand what makes for a solid education on which to build, but not all children would. Governments often step in to set a minimum of what students should at certain ages be able to do. Variation can take place above that minimum threshhold for literacy at a level appropriate for modern times.
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      Apr 7 2012: Thanks Fritzie. I take your point and agree that Discovery learning has to be compatible with outcomes. The difficulty for me is that many teachers have not been encouraged to be creative or to respond to the learning needs of students. Their focus appears to be centered around solely teaching outcomes without encouraging students to pursue interests using an integrated approach.