Liberal education is about being guided and supported to find out for yourself. It sounds and reads like a pipe dream! Teachers in the UK are so ingrained into ‘teaching to the test’ that any change in this direction is years away I feel. What was highlighted for me was that many of our students are already opting for a liberal education when they go onto higher education. Nursing and engineering to name a couple. It must be extremely hard for those students to change their way of learning at such a late stage in education. We need to think about how we can give a little of this liberal education to our students now.
Reading this publication made me think about what we are currently able to achieve in our schools today. The argument that the current structure does not allow for any inquiry learning is a good one and very difficult to push back on. However, I do see within our school’s windows of opportunity. Year 7, 8 and 9 all have space for projects and then we also see the EPQ (Extended Project Qualification) and EE (Extended Essay) again in year 12. Primary schools are full of learning through projects. I do think many teachers who create ‘projects’ or research opportunities would like a different structure to what they have already. FOSIL can give this to those who are open to it.
What I find the most difficult when supporting teachers with these types of projects is to work out how to support the marking. I once helped a teacher do a project on ‘how technology has changed the world’ asking students to create a PowerPoint presentation at the end. Not one that they actually presented but was just full of the information they had found. As I write this I now realise that this was my problem… We should have been asking them for what they had learnt! (see I am learning all the time 😊) The problem, that I had not appreciated at the beginning was the impossible task of looking through 120 Powerpoints so even if our students had done the work there was no time to assess their learning or give feedback. So for these students, what was the point of the process?
This is not just about trying to change to a liberal education but about our ability to understand the process ourselves in order to help teachers to try something different. If we can share our learning and understanding ourselves we are more able to support our teachers by giving them the process and helping them to recognise that sometimes there is a better way to support their student learning.