Purpose of education in my learning spaces

So, how is the purpose of education evident within my learning spaces?* That’s quite the question and I’m not sure I’ll do the whole thing justice here but we’ll give it a go. As a foreword, something that I have tried to remember around my purpose as an educator is a statement from 12 year old  Adora Svitak, “the goal is not to turn kids into your kind of adult but rather better adults than you have been”.

The vision of the New Zealand Curriculum is for our young people to be confident, connected, actively involved and lifelong learners. The idea being that once a young person leaves the education system they will have all the tools required to fulfill that vision for the rest of their lives. If this is the end goal, how do we get there? Through education…

We now live in a time where students are able to find information on anything, anywhere, anytime. I see a good part of my job as motivating, encouraging and fostering curiosity- this is not always easy. Something I read the other day may explain the reasons for this- a four year asks roughly 400 questions every day but after just a year at school, a six year old is only asking roughly 30 questions a day…there is something very wrong with this! Steve Mouldey’s blog on developing student questioning instantly captured my attention last year. It struck a chord with me and I ended up trying a couple of his strategies with some of my students. They enjoyed the challenge and saw questioning as a valuable skill that they could transfer to lots of different areas of their lives. This included the more reluctant learners. The fact that it leads to critical and creative thinking was immediately beyond them but we had to start somewhere. So now we have a wonder wall and use versions of  the question storm frequently to develop their questioning and critical thinking skills. Since reading Steve’s Blog, curiosity (and questioning) has now become a driving force within my practice.

I see myself as lucky to work within the Health and Physical Education learning area. This is an area where the whole person is valued and developed, not just the academic/mental aspects. We value holistic wellbeing, learning in, through and about movement and developing and fostering relationships with people and places. Many of the skills HPE students learn to value are those that are seen as crucial in the 21st Century workplace. Skills such as communication, critical thinking, curiosity, confidence, collaboration, leadership and cooperation are inherent and 100% visible everyday (maybe not all the time but definitely everyday). Students are encouraged to challenge assumptions and weigh up different opinions and ideas to make sense of the world around them.

Technology is making its way into HPE more and more. After watching the film Most Likely to Succeed, it’s obvious that the possibilities are endless. My students have used technology as a way to develop their curiosity (some amazing apps out there!), collaborate on group tasks, shoot revision videos and assess their practical performance to name a few. We also have class facebook pages as a way to keep connected and share ideas with one another after the school bell goes. This is a platform young people currently use but I imagine it will change in the next few years to something else. This has also served as a way to model good digital citizenship for students.

I feel that together, my students and I form a team. It is not a case of one person holds all the knowledge. It is instead an environment where ako is evident everyday. We all learn from each other (the wonder wall has helped to emphasise this). We share learning experiences that will continue to be of value long after we leave the learning space. We have shared our #oneword2016, our goals, our stories and our hopes for the future with each other. Sometimes this is not always evident to them as learning, it may just appear as a casual conversation in passing. My students are discovering day by day that within every experience is an opportunity to learn something. My biggest hope for my current students is to be curious and to ask more questions. This will ignite the desire to learn instead of just wanting to be told the answer. I want them to be less like the six year old and more like the four year old!

* I’m trying to get out of the habit of using the word classroom as it doesn’t accurately describe most of the spaces my students and I work in- plus teenagers think you’re a bit weird if you refer to the bush or the harbour as a classroom. 

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About Jo Smith

Health & PE teacher and TIC Outdoor Education at Aotea College.
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