Forward thinking schools around the world are abandoning teacher-centred teaching styles in favour of brand new methods which are promising excellent results, at the very least, because they are managing to raise enthusiasm among students who are tired of tightly regulated, chalk-and-blackboard learning.
These are a few new methods making the educational world sit up and take notice:
- Spaced Learning: Created in Monkseaton High School in Tyne and Wear, this method is based on the findings of neuro-science, which indicate that students learn better when short lessons are alternated with a completely different activity and the cycle is repeated. Rather than listen to a teacher give a lecture or write on the board, students watch a short Powerpoint presentation (of around eight to 10 minutes) and immediately take a break lasting around 10 minutes, during which they pursue a totally different activity (such as basketball), returning once again for a quick Powerpoint presentation before having a break again. After each break, students are shown the same presentation, but this time, the information onscreen has blanks which the students are asked to fill in and recite out loud. Monkseaton teachers are not only reporting improved results, but also, a remarkable rise in student motivation.
- ‘Block Learning’: At Leasowes Community College in Dudley, students study subjects in blocks and one ‘class’ can last for the entire week, or more, since they approach subjects from theoretical, practical and coursework perspectives. One particularly fun class is business studies: during a five-day period, students are required to dress in business attire, to add a healthy dose of realism to the equation. The aim is for students to achieve personal development rather than merely pass tests. The school entices kids with a host of innovative practices, offering them ‘flexible Fridays’ (where class runs from 8:30am to 1:30pm and students are given the opportunity to concentrate on just one subject intensively). Students are encouraged to achieve success early and by year 11, most already have at least one GCSE.
- Office-Styled Learning: The Thomas Deacon Academy in Petersborough is surely one of the most innovative schools in the UK, both in terms of its architecture and its outlook. Looking more like the high-rise offices of a FTSE 100 company than a school, it has no playground, scheduled break times or bells, which are believed to promote “a herd-like mentality”. Moreover, older students attend school in business attire (suit-and-tie), to give the school a professional feel. The aim is to imitate a real-life situations to the greatest extent possible. The school is reporting great success, with a 100 per cent IB pass rate.
- NoTosh Design Thinking School Programme: Founded by Ewan McIntosh, NoTosh works with the world’s top creative fashion, media and technology companies and applies knowledge gleaned from these collaborations to UK schools. The aim is to give children “more responsibility, more choice and deeper learning in any given field, from Shakespeare to Social Studies, Physics to Philosophy”. Children are encouraged to define the problem they wish to solve or the area of curriculum they wish to explore in a deeper fashion, and to decide the means through which they can show what they have learned. They are likewise encouraged to ask ‘higher order’ questions through exercises like ‘finding non-Googleable questions’ to encourage a more profound approach to a topic. McIntosh and his team are also reporting great success and are currently teaching their programme at various schools in the UK and in Brisbane, Australia.
With all this talk of a back to basics approach to education, you have to wonder whether now is actually the time to innovate not look backwards. It’s time to write (another) letter to Michael Gove …..