Wondering about sense of place at the museum

I took this photo at the NUS museum.

I’ve been in the museum this week, and in the back of my mind is my paper. The links I can see in the paintings, make sense to my understanding of chapter one, but it is so difficult to clearly articulate my thoughts. Below is an attempt at my opening paragraph.

The places where we reside and work influence our professional and personal lives. Where we live can shape how we live. A sense of place describes the interactions and feelings shared between a place, people and a community to bring forth an understanding of reality for an individual who is in that place. Places teach us how to be in the world and how the world works, moreover, places make us by shaping our identity and culture (Gruenewald 2003). Tuan (1977) was instrumental in shaping how we think about sense of place. Over the years other thinkers (Relph, Massey, Greenwood, and many others) have continued to develop this idea and our understanding of this complex concept is continuing to develop. We know that place impacts our identity in multiple ways, but little research is being conducted into how expatriate international school teachers understand.

I guess I’m wondering how to really put it all together, I wonder how to make it clear to others what I want to study, and how I plan to go about it, I’m worried no one really cares or it won’t matter (but I’ll put those thoughts aside for now).

So I guess, how is this connected to the learning going on in the museum? I’m trying to share stories of place, which I read is important. But in this specific museum is a painting of samui women working. Not many people know of the samsui women, not many people know how important they are for shaping our place (and our identity as a nation). So I’m just trying to help our teachers and students learn a little more about where we live.

Thinking about globalised standards

Through our assessment course I’ve been thinking a lot about what global standards create. I’ve been wondering a lot lately about how this impacts our students. Do we really think there is an ideal global person? Do we want people to be the same? Can we really compare people who are so different?

When we have standards that focus on the whole world, or perceived global outcomes or expectations, do we limit teachers, students, learning opportunities?

My hope when focusing on a more local learning context is that we show value for diversity. By focusing on things that are different we can broaden our thought process and maybe create a more interesting world? I don’t know.

Trying to figure things out

International Baccalaureate (IB) schools all over the world aim to build an individual’s international mindedness in order to create “good” global citizens who are responsible to and for the world around them. The goal is to use international mindedness in a local context to create globally responsible learners (IBO 2009). In order to explore the effectiveness of their program, some questions need to be addressed. Firstly, what is the role of assessment on a global, national and local level in IB schools? Secondly, who decides what these values are? Finally, is there any way assessment can aid us in the development of becoming a “good” person (either local or global)?  By exploring these questions one can see if assessment plays a role in the IB’s development of responsible global citizens.

In Making the Primary Years Program Happen (MPYPH) the International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO) asserts it works with local, national and international organizations to create engaging learning opportunities with rigorous assessment. Usually Primary Years Program (PYP) schools use three different levels of assessment; international standardized assessments, curriculum standards based on national frameworks (not necessarily those of the host country) and local assessments based on what students are learning based on classroom and local context (IBO 2009).

International and national standardized assessments are useful for international schools to help students prepare for different schools in different locations and ensure acceptance into international universities. International assessments can also aid in monitoring teacher effectiveness. International students are often transient and move from place to place. In order for students to find success in other schools, international standards based assessments can help students understand how their knowledge is measured on a global scale. Students need assurance that their learning will translate from one place to another, otherwise they may not be successful in other locations. For learners to be successful in their transitions, international standards need to be assessed. Moreover, students will often go to universities in countries other than those where they attend high school. Universities have to accept people based on academic readiness and success. For universities to meaningful compare students they have to have access to similar data points. (Verger, Parcerisa & Fontdevila 2019, Fischman et al, ). For international schools it is also important to evaluate and monitor teachers.  Many international schools offer yearly contracts. If a teacher has classes that consistently fail to meet desired outcomes, they may be asked to do further professional development.  For international schools, and their stakeholders, international standardized assessments can be a beneficial tool. For IB schools in particular, positive results can effectively advertise the benefits of a PYP education (Kushner et al 2016). By excelling at international standardized exams and providing a values based education the IBO can show that their method of teaching and learning is effective and enable students to succeed in a knowledge-based economy. 

The IBO requires PYP schools to assess the knowledge, concepts, skills, attitudes and action that arise through the units of inquiry (IBO 2009). Many schools choose to create their own curriculum based on national standards from a variety of countries. When creating this curriculum, school administrators may refer to the knowledge and content being assessed on the international standardized assessments. By using what schools’ perceive to be the most important knowledge they can create a curriculum framework that suits the learner’s perceived needs.

Paying attention to the local aspects of learning is integral in the PYP. One of the essential elements of the PYP is taking action (IBO 2009). Action is intended to make a difference in the local (or near local) community.  Throughout the IB program action is a required part of learning. This is the IB program’s use of values to create responsible global citizens. This action, although part of the curriculum and should be assessed is difficult to measure quantitatively. While the focus of action is on local improvement and on creating global citizens, most of the assessment is feedback oriented (IBO 2009).  This is similar to place based education (Sobel ) where feedback comes not only from the teachers, but also from the community. Success in this regard impacts people and is not just a number. 

The IB claims that the PYP is creating global citizens, they empower teachers to look through various national and international standards in order to create a responsible global citizen who takes action (IBO 2009). To this end they use international standardized tests and local or classroom assessments.  One might wonder, who is creating this curriculum and who decides the standards the international assessments focus on.  IB programs focus on creating a global learner, but what is a global learner? The learner profile is an important part of the PYP but not many people who are questioning who created these values and why they are deemed important. Winchip, Milder and Stevenson (2019) remark that the privatization of education suggests the globalization of standards. Sahlberg (2016) refers to this idea as a Global Education Reform Movement or GERM. With a focus on standardization of content, a focus on core subjects and high stakes testing we lose the opportunity for individualization and local focus. Privatization of schools and their standards may be a result of corporations and businesses. Tampio (2019) urges us to look at United Nations focus on merging business and education to get a better understanding of the importance of business playing a role in education. If the United Nations focuses on mixing these two ideas, surely the majority of international schools and international standardized tests have the same mentality.  Edwards (2010) suggest that the decline in official assistance by the United Nations and other non-governmental organizations have hindered some access to education. By removing developmental assistance from schools that need funding businesses can step in to fill the monetary gap. When businesses become a part of schooling, then it is reasonable to assume they have a say in some of the directions of the school. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) even runs high stakes standardized assessments (Kuehn 2014). Whether intentionally or otherwise it seems as though in preparing students for entering into the workforce in the knowledge economy we are allowing businesses and corporation to set some education policy and standards.

The IBO understands that there are a range of external situations that school leaders are obligated to respond to, and at times those situations or pressures can be conflicting (IBO 2009). If the IBO understands such pressures, what does this organization do to address this situation and create good students. In Making the PYP Happen (2009) the IBO instructs schools to build curriculum that addresses the essential elements (knowledge, concepts, skills, attitudes and action) in relation to the learner profile. The schools are asked to use this value oriented framework to gather and analyze information in order to provide feedback to parents and students that clearly states what the student knows and provides a path for improvement. The IBO embraces values based education in order to create a responsible global citizen that has the ability to create a personal set of values who recognize that other people with different values can also be right. On official reports home the learner profile, attitudes, skills, concepts, knowledge and any action should be reported to parents and other stakeholders. While students do take international standardized assessments our reports home and the majority of our interactions with parents revolves around the learner profile and orientation towards learning. By acknowledging the importance of some aspects of international standardized testing and focusing on the importance of a values based education the PYP attempts to create globally responsible citizens who can also integrate into the knowledge economy workforce.

With a focus on multiple forms of assessment from a variety of international, national and local perspectives does the IBO help in creating a “good” global citizen? If we take the IBO’s hope that all students will be “internationally minded people who, recognizing their common humanity and shared guardianship of the planet, help to create a better and more peaceful world” (IBO 2009, p. 4).

International standardized assessments are often accused of pursuing a neoliberal agenda that supports businesses and economies (Kuhen 2014, Rushek 2017, Sahlber 2016, Tampio 2019).  Tampio (2019) sees neoliberal scripts appearing in all aspects of learning. For instance, by focusing on education for women and girls we assert the neoliberal ideas of autonomy, choice and agency to improve an individual life. We look at how to help people be more active in a knowledge based economy and promote these values through school. By using international assessments built by organizations like OECD, we are encouraging students to follow neoliberal values, and present these ideas as rational ways of living. Agency, autonomy and choice are also core values of the PYP. We want to empower our learners as individuals. In this regard the PYP is developing internationally minded people (if the goal is we all have autonomy, choice and empowerment). However, Rushek (2017) acknowledges that not all schools are the same, neither are the students, systems or communities they serve. Regardless of these differences international standardized tests still focus on the needs of the ever-changing knowledge economy with a hope of keeping students competitive. This reinforces the neoliberal agenda looking for accountability and measurement of learning. For this reason it seems that although the IBO understands the external pressures of international standardized tests it does not create them or require them to be an IB school.

While the IBO assess action, attitudes, and the learner profile in an attempt to create a “good” person more research is needed to understand more about what this means. For instance, how can a teacher accurately provide feedback on action or the amount of curiosity someone shows? This is a qualitative activity and is difficult to validate. Another aspect that needs to be researched is who created these values and why. Throughout MPYPH it seems evident that these values are important, but there is no evidence that these are truly global or desirable skills or attitudes.

Seeing things in a new light

If you get a chance, Jeju is a pretty beautiful place.

I’ve been thinking a lot about teacher identity, assessment, and just ways of being lately. While reading (and trying to write) I had the chance to slip off to Jeju-do for a week. As an expat, and someone who happily identifies as an “other” in most countries, I’ve been challenged in my classes about assessment.

I’m not quite sure how I am going to link all of this together in my paper, but right now I’m wondering how teacher identity, place based education, international schools and international assessments are all linked together.

Tran and Nhai (2015) discuss this idea that international school identities are (re)constructed through encounters with students from different cultures. When we take the time to reflect on our teaching and our practice it is often shaped by people from a different cultural context, which shapes us as teachers.

So, I guess I’m wondering, if I believe in the value of place based education, that all education is environmental education, and that we need to love a place to save a (or many) place(s) then how does that tension interact with teaching at an international school teaching “international” values.

Can we be truly global or local anymore? If our encounters are (re)constructing our identities how do we know who or where we are?

Tran, L. T., Nhai, T.N. . (2015). Re-imagining teachers’ identity and professionalism under the condition of international education. Teachers and Teaching, 21(8), 958-973.

Place and marginalisation

Our rooftop garden

Slowly trying to get back into the literature review. So going to take some time to (re)look at some of the articles that have really been provoking me.

Gruenwald, usually, but specifically in this chapter is really concerned with how we as teachers can create a more just world.  we need to make sure we are using terms properly, use schooling research instead of education research, our words our powerful and shape our perspective.  We need to base our learning in places in order to truly understand the diversity of where we are so we can address the differences and relationships between people and places. We need to think deeply about our relationship to places and why and how they are formed that way.

“Without teachers who are sensitive to and knowledgeable about difference among individuals and groups, “other people’s children” can be marginalized, neglected, undervalued, poorly served and even greatly damaged by their experience in school. ” (Gruenwald 2010, p. 139). When we don’t understand the difference or meaning behind places and people we can further damage people and places.

So I guess the question is how do we hyper aware of this? What questions do we need to ask of ourselves, and what are the first steps we need to take?

Gruenewald, D. A. (2010). Place Based Education: Grounding Culturally Responsive Teaching in Geographical Diversity In D. A. Gruenwald, Smith, G.A. (Ed.), Place Based Education in The Global Age: Local Diversity. New York, New York: Routledge.

What part(s) do I play in learning (2.0)

Taken from: Glendale inquiry (image licensed for reuse).

I can’t fathom learning being static. Learning cannot be acquired, we can never completely know something. Learning is a process, a way of being, it is in progress. 

From a phenomenological perspective I’ve always (rather I’ve always thought that I) corrected my thinking and changed what I believed to be true based on new evidence or encountering new people.  For instance, when confronted with a new idea that fills me with tension, or that I want to explore, others have told me I can be argumentative.  My desire is not to fill people with anxiety or to initiate conflict, but I want to deconstruct new ideas, and sometimes I ask questions a little too passionately in order to make sure I fully understand these new concepts.  During my Master’s courses one of my fellow learners suggest I paid more attention to my “dark side”.  She argued that by understanding the ideas I didn’t want to explore I would improve my ability to argue what I believed.  We had a passionate conversation where I tried to deconstruct her thought process in order to understand the benefits.  After hearing her arguments, I decided that her way of thinking could be very beneficial to my work.  When we talked about it afterwards she thought I was being far too aggressive in my arguments, so after that day I tried to change both my thinking and my practice.  Just because I have a way of being now, my ontology is one that can change (and should change) in order for me to continue learning and growing.  As this example illustrates, I believe I may be a constructivist with my thinking as this quotation resonates deeply with me; “For the most part, constructivist accounts are not much concerned with assembling or building as they are with discarding and revising” (Davis & Sumara 2003, p. 126).  When working with others, or on my own I reflect on my beliefs and why I believe something. After thought and conversations I am able to rebuild or remodel my thinking in order to become a (hopefully) more effective learner and person.

Going through this course has been an eye-opener for a number of reasons.  While I’ve always considered myself more of a dynamic learner and a teacher, it was interesting for me to see what aspects of behaviourism, situated cognition and expert knowledge resonated with me.  Certain aspects of constructivism have also irked me in some way, and as a result, I’ve been feeling this tension to be better able to describe my own epistemology and ontology as well as inquire into how this relates to my dissertation.  When I think about the ideas from the papers that have filled me with tension, it is not solely because I disagree with the concepts.  Some of the points on the table (see attached), that have made me prod deeply into myself are because I disagree with them.  Others are there because they resonate too deeply within me and I want to embrace and embody different values.  Some of the points make me feel as though I’m looking into a mirror and I’m not completely happy with what I see.

When first confronted with Skinner’s (1958) article, I thought I would disagree with everything he said.  Behaviourism is a bad word in the International Baccalaureate world, and I thought there would be little I could relate to.  However, it seems like Skinner was trying to gamify education.  He wanted immediate results that students could apply directly to their learning.  From a motivation perspective he thought, “In the light of this present knowledge a school system must be called a failure if it cannot induce students to learn except by threatening them for not learning.” (Skinner 1958, p. 977) I wonder how often we make small threats in class.  As a teacher who is outside most of the time, I know that boundaries are important.  At times there have been threats to stop the engagements if people could not respect the places we were occupying.  In hindsight, I am worried that these kinds of threats are really me making up for my lack of engaging the students properly.  If I have to resort threats instead of motivating students to learn, have I failed our students?  This idea strongly resonated with me, I believe that if we can think about how students learn, and what they want from the learning we are better able to “induce students to learn”.  

When at school we are often far removed from what real people are doing.  “Archetypal school activity is very different from what we have in mind when we talk of authentic activity, because it is very different from what authentic practitioners do” (Brown, Collins & Duguid 1989, p. 34).  When teaching, I am often guilty of removing students from natural and authentic learning opportunities.  If I identify as a socio-constructivist I should be looking at how the culture and society play a part in our learning, but I feel that I (and many of my colleagues) unintentionally remove students from authentic opportunities.  Situated cognition has reminded me that it is important to critically think about the places and parts students will learn in authentically.

Glasser (1992) suggests that, “To optimise teaching, we need to design practice in which learners are encouraged to make connections between principles and procedures” (p.270).  Experts in the community, and expert environmentalists, are systems thinkers. They are able to see patterns and make suggestions for improvements or draw conclusions based on these patterns.  Although I am hesitant to be an expert in class, expert thinking feels like something I agree with.  If we can teach students to think about the patterns they see and wonder about how these patterns are connected, I believe we will help them learn more effectively.

Vygotsky’s ideas surrounding socio-constructivism have always resonated with me.  I don’t believe (and I find it hard to understand that others believe) things are isolated.   As an environmental educator, I believe things are connected.  I look for systems and wonder how they work.  “A final impetus to understanding how social and cultural factors influence cognition is the perspective that thought, learning and knowledge are not just influenced by social factors but are social phenomena” (Palincsar 1998, p.349).  Learning and knowledge are not something that can be separated from community.  Where we are shapes who we are and how we interact with the world around us.  For the past six years I’ve had a blog, before this course I never thought about how this resonated with my socio-constructivist beliefs.  Recently I put my first draft of this paper on the blog and I got a response from someone I did not know, it is interesting to see how other’s views shape this paper, and how so much of what I do is influenced by the community around me (virtually or otherwise).

In particular, the “outside – in” model (Lourenço 2012, p. 287) is one I resonate with deeply.  I believe this idea is extended a little further where knowledge and ideas come also from beyond our culture to the place(s) around us. As both an environmental educator, and someone who believes in God I see most knowledge being situated outside of myself.  I try to pay close attention to the things going around me and work with others to create an understanding of what may be happening and what truths can be understood through our observations.  Since the knowledge was and is never really mine, I don’t believe I can transmit it to someone else.  I believe I can share my thinking and that may resonate with other people, or perhaps their thinking can influence or change mine.  When I think of where most things are (physical, knowledge-based or meta-physical) I can’t see them as residing in me, or being at home in me. If this is true then, most knowledge must come from the outside and (briefly?) rest with me as I continue to wonder and wander.

Like both Piaget and Vygotsky, I believe knowing is a way of organising your thinking and understanding the world around you.  Piaget suggested we reconstruct the concepts around us individually, while Vygotsky thought this was a social construction (Lorenco 2012).  I do not believe that we can reduce knowledge to simple facts, or break learning down into specific chunks that we can transfer to others.  We make sense of the world by understanding how things are working in a moment, we react differently to a variety of teaching styles, content and people.  “Social norms and physical knowledge are contingent in their very nature for they change with the passage of time” (Lorenco 2012, p. 189).  If learning were just items of knowledge to be delivered and we could find an optimal delivery method, then it would make sense if we were all able to learn most things.  However, our understandings of the world change how we approach the world. This means although we are all capable of learning, we don’t all learn the same way, or express our knowledge in the same fashion.  Although students can build their own “necessary knowledge” from a Piagetian perspective, these ideas are still universal truths. (Lorenco 2012) As teachers we need to make sure we are understanding what the students are expressing and providing opportunities to change how the classroom is working in order to meet the needs of all learners.  Vygotsky notes that “[t]he investigator must…view concept formation as a function of the adolescent’s total social and cultural growth, which affects not only the contents but also the method of his thinking” (Lorenco 2012, p.286).

One of the tensions that I am exploring in this course is I can believe that knowledge comes from outside in, but real construction comes from the meaning making I do internally.  If I really believed in social constructivism, I wonder if I would never have left Canada.  What gave me the ability to walk away from my society and culture if I really am a product of the things around me?  What developed my questioning ability if the people I grew up with seemed satisfied in my hometown?  Exploring this difference in social construction is one aspect I need to explore.  More than this I wonder what else is involved in social constructivism. I mean, where does motivation play a part, what about the content, how is the more than human world involved?  While I thought I believed fully in constructivism, I can’t figure out where these things play a part.  Exploring these tensions and wondering why the things that resonate with me feel comfortable will be an important aspect of the “work” I do in this class to prepare for my dissertation.  If I know who I am as a learner, and then how assessment plays a role I can clarify my epistemology which will help me communicate the importance of a sense of place in education.

References

Brown, J.S., Collins, A., Duguid, P. (1989). Situated Cognition and the Culture of Learning. Educational Researcher. 18:1 32-42

Davis, B. & Sumara, D. (2003) Why Aren’t They Getting This? Working through the regressive myths of constructivist pedagogy. Teaching Education, 14:2, 123-140, DOI: 10.1080/1047621032000092922

Glaser, R. (1992). Expert knowledge and processes of thinking. In D. F. Halpern (Ed.), Enhancing thinking skills in the sciences and mathematics (pp. 63-75). Hillsdale, NJ, US: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc

Lave, J. (1991). Situating learning in communities of practice. In L. B. Resnick, J. M. Levine, & S. D. Teasley (Eds.), Perspectives on socially shared cognition (pp. 63-82). Washington, DC, US: American Psychological Association. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/10096-003

Lourenco, Orlando. (2012). Piaget and Vygotsky: Many resemblances, and a crucial difference. New Ideas in Psychology, 30, 281-295

Palincsar, A.S. (1998). Social Constructivist Perspectives on Teaching and Learning. Annual Review Psychology. 49, 345-375

Skinner, B.F. (1958) Teaching Machines. Science. 128:3330,969-97

Teaching Machines (Skinner, 1958) Expert Knowledge (Glasser, 1992) Situated Cognition (Brown, Collins & Duguid, 1989) Cognitive Constructivism (Davis & Sumara, 2003) Socio Constructivism  (Palincsar, 1998) Communities of Practice (Lave 1991) 
Ideas that intrigue me “When an examination is corrected and returned after a delay of many hours or days, the student’s behaviour is not appreciably modified. (p. 969) “Composing a set of frames can be an exciting exercise in the analysis of knowledge.” (p. 975) “In assigning certain mechanisable functions to machines, the teachers emerges in his role as an indispensable human being.” (p. 976) “In the light of this present knowledge a school system must be called a failure if it cannot induce students to learn except by threatening them for not learning.” (p. 977) “Coordinate with these abilities, experts in science and mathematics often make use of qualitative reasoning to approach a problem that will require quantitative solution” (p. 263)    “Experts perceive large meaningful patterns” (p. 264)   “To optimise teaching, we need to design practice in which learners are encouraged to make connections between principles and procedures.” (p. 270) “Given the chance to observe and practice in situ the behavior of members of a culture, people pick up relevant jargon, imitate behavior, and gradually start to act in accordance with its norms.” (p. 34)   “Archetypal school activity is very different from what we have in mind when we talk of authentic activity, because it is very different from what authentic practitioners do.” (p. 34)   “Authentic activity, as we have argued, is important for learners, because it is the only way they can gain access to the standpoint that enables practitioners to act meaningfully and purposefully.” (p. 36) “… it was difficult to communicate this point to the teachers in a manner that would not be taken as a challenge to their personal or professional integrities.” (p. 124) “…constructivists are usually aligned more with the Darwinian model of structural fluidity and ongoing adaptation than with the Cartesian assumption of linear causality and steady progress.” (p. 125)    “For the most part, constructivist accounts are not much concerned with assembling or building as they are with discarding and revising.” (p.126)   “It is understood that while learning might be dependent on teaching, it is never determined by teaching.” (p.130) “A final impetus to understanding how social and cultural factors influence cognition is the perspective that thought, learning and knowledge are not just influenced by social factors but are social phenomena.” (p.349)   “Merely having the right answer was not consistently enough to persuade the other child.” (p.351)   “These semiotic means are both the tools that facilitate the co-construction of knowledge…” (p.353) “Developing an identity as a member of a community and becoming knowledgeably skillful are part of the same process, with the former motivating, shaping and giving meaning of the latter, which it subsumes.” (p.65)   “The theoretical view emphasizes the relational interdependency of agent and world, activity, meaning, cognition, learning, and knowing.” (p.67)   “This conception of learning activity draws attention to the complex ways in which persons and communities of practice constitute themselves and each other.” (p.74)


Ideas that fill me with tension “Making sure that the student knows he doesn’t know is a technique concerned with motivation, not the learning process” (p. 975) “He has found that students do not pay attention unless they are worried about the consequences of their work.” (p.975) “In the guise of teaching thinking we set difficult and confusing situations and claim credit for the students who deal with them successfully.” (p. 975) “The acquisition of competent performance takes place in an interpersonal system in which participation and guidance from others influences the understanding of new situations and the management of problem solving that leads to learning. (p271 & 272)  “If, as we propose, learning is a process of enculturating that is supported in part through social interaction and the circulation of narrative, groups of participants are particularly important, for it is only within groups that social interaction and conversation can take place.” (p. 39) “Piaget further suggested that the social exchanges between children were more likely to lead to cognitive development than exchanges between children and adults.” (Palinscar, p. 350)   “Development occurs as children learn general concepts and principles that can be applied to new tasks and problems, whereas from a Piagetian perspective, learning is constrained by development.” (Palinscar, p.353) “This is a particular challenge in Western societies in which individualistic traditions have prevailed.” p.355)   “It is hard to imagine a more significant challenge to social constructivism than promoting meaningful learning for all children, especially for those who are linguistically and culturally diverse.” (p.368) “To commoditize labor, knowledge and participation in communities of practice is to diminish possibilities for sustained development of identities of mastery.” (p.65)   “If becoming a master is not possible in such circumstances, the value of accruing to knowledgeable skill when it is subsumed in the identity of mastery devolves elsewhere or disappears.” (p.76)

What does a right to education mean?

One of our readings this week focused on the right to education for all children. When people, especially teachers in international schools think of this as a target we definitely hit. However, this reading unpacked some of the deeper understandings of what it means to guarantee education as a human right.

 Article 12 (1) of the UNCRC states that: 

“States Parties shall assure to the child who is capable of forming his or her own views the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child, the views of the child being given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child.” 

Welty and Lundy (2013) unpack this further looking at different domains of space, voice, audience and influence.

When we are giving space to children to learn, Welty and Lundy (2013) argue that we need to ask students what matters to them, we also need to ask if they want to participate in activities. At times as teachers we need to ensure that we are not marginalising or alienating students. Although (I hope) no teachers intentionally alienate students, I wonder how often in international schools we do this by seeing things from only our perspective. I know that I have not often asked wether or not students want to participate in an activity or feel like they shouldn’t participate.

From an assessment point of view, I wonder how often we limit students’ ability to share their voice. Do we only accept one form of assessment, do we encourage students to show diverse ways of knowing (writing, oral presentations, art works) or do we make all students submit their learning in the same way?

For audience and influence, Welty and Lundy (2013) look at how we don’t often give students an appropriate audience. Often our audience is the teacher or their classmates, we don’t have them present to someone who has the power to make decisions.

This was a really engaging, and short article. The most powerful bit for me was that we are not just preventing students from a pedagogically sound way of learning, we are breaking a binding agreement by not including student voice. Such an interesting thing to think about.

E. Welty and L. Lundy (2013), “A children’s rights-based approach to involving children in decision making”, JCOM 12(03): C02.