National standards have gone, but how will schools react, will it just be much the same but minus official national standards? will it be many scratching their heads? or will it be a return to holistic values, our education cultural heritage?
Some will express concern about a fall in standards occurring; others will know that standards have already fallen (as the inevitable effect of that imposition of standards).
On the narrow measurement of standards in international tests, even though we moved our programmes to focus on those narrow standards, New Zealand is at or near the bottom of the Western world – so it is because. High stakes inflation has worked to mask New Zealand’s true performance. The Dunedin Monitoring Unit, for instance, has our true results and that is around 20 per cent lower than our reported ones.
The holistic, based on a broad, rich, and informal programme, had its origins in the Beeby-Fraser period led by New Zealand’s senior teacher of junior classes. As a result of neuroscience, what New Zealand’s educationists knew about education has now been proved scientifically right; neuroscience has proved that a narrow, formal programme reduces a part of the brain and, in some children, makes them highly resistant to learning (children likely to be heavily represented in lower-socio-economic groupings); and a broad, rich, informal programme expands part of the brain making children highly receptive to learning.
(Please note: in three weeks my holistic publication – The File – will be available for purchase. It will include amongst other things a detailed description of two teachers and their holistic programme, one junior and the other senior).
About the threshold timetable
These are the expanded notes I used as I travelled the country after I had left the education system in 1990 to put forward a simple framework to encourage and enable teachers to get on to the holistic continuum. They are largely pre-computer times so, for today’s programmes, teachers would have to insert useful computer work into the various parts of the programme. These are not necessarily sophisticated curriculum ideas because the main intention is to get teachers and children going on a timetable that flows and provides children with the choice as to when, where, and how they undertake learning. Large numbers of teachers used this threshold timetable as a starting point then proceeded from there at a pace and direction that suited them and the children.
Some key points
- Once you have stepped over the threshold of the holistic, what is suggested, and what you devise, should be considered moves along the holistic continuum
- You do not need a modern learning environment (as commonly understood) to develop a broad, rich, and informal programme
- You need to work within the realities of your situation – realities such as the degree of freedom likely to be afforded by your principal and senior teachers; your curriculum understandings, abilities, and personality
- A key part of a threshold timetable is the generative effect of timetable blocking
- The timetable, from time-to-time, should be blocked for all parts of the curriculum including mathematics, ways to use the computer, and physical education activities
- The holistic continuum is characterised by choice, productive choice
- A key way to generate productive choice within the overall programme is using blocking
- In art, for instance, children should have days developing knowledge about printmaking, clay, painting, and so on, to enable them subsequently to make productive and varied choices
- Choice does not mean fragmentation of learning: when children do science blocking in preparation for choice, the emphasis should be on the main values of science, that is curiosity, hypothesising, and honest investigation; this can be done informally or formally – an observant teacher can soon detect that a child has resorted to google
- In social studies blocking, cohesiveness should be sought by children gaining ideas that get them close to the lives of people and, in the process, discovering that people have similar basic needs but different ways of meeting them, and by that means establishing a bond of humanity with the people being studied
- Blocking for drama should establish the need for sincerity and concentration, also the various drama techniques, as way for children in the choice programme to prepare honest drama for everyday presentation.
In the context of a discussion on developmental, a threshold timetable is one which places teachers conceptually on the developmental continuum. This writing is not intended as a deep discourse on curriculum areas but a way of encouraging teachers to make key curriculum decisions, and a timetable to suit, based on the holistic philosophy.
Developmental is the holistic in classroom practice – in another discussion, the whole school education system could be discussed in relation to the holistic, as Peter Fraser did with his main aim – but it is learning in classrooms that is addressed here; the holistic being teaching and learning organised by dynamic aims that are a combination of the cognitive and affective. An outcome of this is that evaluation occurs using criteria not objectives, meaning the dynamic main aim is systematically supported as the unifying driving force for teaching and learning, a single main aim for a curriculum area or an integration of areas (but care has to be taken with this last). A dynamic main aim is a main aim that has a powerful, unified, though discriminating effect, on teaching and learning. For instance, in expressive writing, a main aim could be writing with sincerity – dependent matters occurring in the course of pursuing that main aim then expressed as criteria – if they are not dependent then they should be omitted. A dynamic main aim is powerful in guiding what should be both included and excluded. (In reading, a main aim could be children becoming independent readers; or in mathematics, children’s ability and willingness to solve mathematical problems.)
For the teacher, developmental is a state of mind, that once held allows the teacher to go in many directions but unified in overall effect by the holistic philosophy.
It is suggested a highly individualised time follow reading:
This time could be called choice time, extension time, contract time, challenge time:
Choice time might appeal as a label to children
Extension time to parents.
There are three main purposes for choice time –
1. Choice time provides an opportunity for various contracts to be carried out:
Contracts to meet skill needs
For instance, those arising from printing or handwriting, grammar, punctuation, tables, and so on.
2. Choice time provides an opportunity for extension work in all curriculum areas:
Particularly in mathematics, science, social studies, language, arts, drama, music, and physical education
The timetable might have been blocked to go deeply into social studies, or an art topic, say, printmaking
Then, following the blocking, the children in choice could complete activities or explore ideas of their own in the topic
Or the teacher might have planned a topic on snails in science on the basis of, say, three days of individualised exploratory activities with the children doing more or less the same things, but at a pace, and in order, that suits them individually
Extensions could occur in choice time by having children select an aspect of the topic to investigate.
Choice time provides teachers and children with the opportunity to try things out:
To generate ideas and ways of doing things and thinking about things
To break the bounds of what is considered usual for children at a particular class level
It also provides an opportunity for children to explore various technologies and resources – computers, libraries, sports equipment, videos, music equipment, and so on.
3. Choice time provides an opportunity for children to continue and complete work begun earlier in various curriculum areas:
The blocking of the timetable is undertaken to get a topic going in a continuous and insightful manner and to set up productive choices
Science can sometimes be a relaxed investigation of the life, say, of a piwakawaka, at other times a structured science investigation – but at all times the science should be carried out in accordance with central science values
Mathematics should be unstreamed and based on problem-solving – with a learning entry provided for children of all abilities – a mathematics corner should be established setting out all kinds of challenges, for instance, problems relating to big mathematical ideas, fuzzy problems, puzzles
Social studies should be the ‘feeling for’ approach because of the affective and cognitive challenge it poses, the way it works as well for new entrant children as it does for older children, and the way it avoids undue pressure on reading ability in the gathering of information
Physical education should break away from children standing around waiting their turn and be based on individualised task cards
Arts and crafts should be blocked to introduce teaching points and to set up activities that lay the basis for communication, expression, and problem-solving. Children should concentrate on their own local environment which should lead to an intensive use of Maori stories, culture, and values
Maori language should introduced in interesting ways using timetable blocking with an emphasis on how it can be used in throughout the day (including children’s names).
In choice time:
- There would be children doing contracts to meet particular needs, often using task cards prepared in discussion with the teacher
- There would be children doing extension work in response to teacher-prepared wall charts, task-cards, displays, carded displays, carded pages from books, child-prepared charts, and so on
- There would be children doing activities following the blocking of the timetable
- There would be children working at challenges they had decided for themselves
- Finally, there would be children completing work from a number of curriculum areas.
Suggested for the threshold timetable so far have been written language, then reading, and choice time and, of course, a whole lot of choice, variety, and informality throughout influenced by timetable blocking.
Continued in Part 4