Friday, November 19, 2010

Creating a Learning Revolution

Dazzled and I were at a very interesting cafĂ© workshop in Dublin this evening. The invitation from Design 21C was to “ join us in a discussion to explore how we learn and what steps we can make to bring about a learning revolution to transform education in Ireland.” Needless to say, we could not resist!

I went in not knowing what to expect and, as usual, felt a little awkward in referring to gifted education. You know that feeling that people will think “oh, for God’s sake, would you listen to yer wan in her ivory tower”? However, a very diverse group of us spent three hours talking about education and it could have been a room full of gifted advocates talking! Amongst many other things, ideas raised were: 
  • Making room for failure and the value of learning by failing.
  • Learning how to deal with failure and to see it as an opportunity.
  • Learning how to take risks.
  • Learning how to learn.
  • Learning as a lifelong skill.
  • Creative thinking skills.
  • Problem solving ability.
  • Why do we put children through our system in lockstep by age?
  • Recognising different learning styles and strengths.
  • Moving from the sage-on-the-stage model of teaching to a guide-on-the-side, where teachers are facilitators of learning.
  • Moving from rote learning to learning by doing and experiencing.
  • Project based learning.
  • Reforming teacher training.
  • Learning life skills such as how to interact with others positively.
  • Learning to feel comfortable with yourself.

Any of this ring bells with you gifted advocates?!! Are these not exactly the things which we are looking for in gifted education? Are many of these not precisely what a good G&T programme offers?

It has been obvious to me for a long time that all the things which we seek for our gifted children would benefit all children. More and more, the rest of the world is looking for the same as we are. Surely this is a huge opportunity for us. If we could achieve a new model of education based on some of the ideas above, would we not have achieved a great deal? By joining with others in the call for general education reform, we have far more chance of being heard than if we fight alone for gifted children only. By joining forces, we also have an opportunity to overcome some of the negative myths that surround giftedness, such as that gifted means mini-Einsteins who breeze through school with no difficulty or effort and have pushy middle-class parents. It would not, however, be a one way street. Much of our collective experience would be of great benefit to others in this endeavour and many gifted advocates have just the skills needed to inspire and lead others.

I absolutely accept that there is a significant cohort of gifted children who are so far to the right of the bellcurve that, just like those to the left, they probably cannot be provided for adequately in mainstream education. However, I also believe that a new model could accommodate a large number of gifted children very well. The advantages of such a model for gifted children would be many. They would be provided with challenges and opportunities to learn appropriate to their ability. Gifted children from all socio-economic backgrounds would be able to shine and be appreciated, not just the ones whose parents are well educated and able to fight for them and support them or send them to expensive schools.  All children should be engaged and excited to be learning, so gifted children would not feel so out of step and isolated. If we got it right, the benefits for society as a whole would be enormous. In order for this to work, we absolutely must be part of the dialogue.

While I believe that we should join the movement for general education reform, we do need to keep our eye on the gifted ball too. Gifted children have a particular set of needs which is not shared by others and which needs to be recognized and addressed. No one else will do this if we don’t. This is our role as gifted advocates.

I must also say that it struck me that many of the people at this meeting tonight were there because they love learning, are full of ideas and opinions, are passionate, want to make a difference to society and probably consisted of a disproportionate number of gifted individuals, even if they didn’t know it themselves!

After all that excitement, I'm not sure I'll be able to deal with a #gtchat at midnight. My head is in such a buzz already and I can see that the first of today's sessions was lively. No sleep for me tonight , I fear!

1 comment:

  1. This is exactly the thing all gifted advocates need to be doing - engaging the educational community in dialog and raising awareness of the fact that gifted children have 'needs', too! excellent viewpoint!