Changing the teacher’s mindset

When I first started thinking about the four components of Matriellez education:-

Corporate Paradigm
Natural Development
Quality Portfolio
Wifi Classroom

…. then initially I feel there is little to be altered when considering democratic empowerment; but then I began to think:-

“Why did the realisation of the changing approach to democracy at Occupy affect me?”

And the answer is clear I needed a change in mindset. I was the teacher in the classroom leading the students to knowledge. Typically as a maths teacher I would put an example on the board, use inclusive techniques to get the students to follow, then help them practise. In terms of exam results this tended to work for those who wanted to pass. But it is all leadership, it all revolved around my telling them stuff they should learn to pass an exam, I was the leader of knowledge, they accepted this, and they tried to pass or fail. But they just accepted. Isn’t this the current failing in democracy? Some people pass by participating in the so-called democracy as some form of representative, others get what they want from the government by voting – and if they don’t they maybe try to do something about it, but most people just accept that nothing can be done. What happens in the classroom is mirrored in daily life.

Change the teacher’s mindset. Whilst the teacher has more knowledge this is not the theoretical purpose of education, the original purpose of education is to bring out from within – educare – latin. How can that happen if knowledge is imposed from outside? Mindsets need to change to bringing out, and the key to this is student confidence. Students need the confidence to genuinely express themselves – not the false expression that comes with fear and territory. Give them the confidence to express from the heart.

This problem is seriously difficult for the teachers. At present there are a significant proportion of teachers who believe that once the material has been taught that is the end of the process. If students then fail tests it is because they have failed to learn or consolidate the material. More enlightened teachers begin to consider ongoing assessment as a means of recognising whether students have learnt and adjust their teaching strategy accordingly – evaluation from assessment. But these approaches lie within the exam ambit, they are approaches that lead up to exams, what is taught is governed by those exams, and how much of what is learnt depends on the understanding of the students and the qualities of the teacher.

All is fixed by the exam and delivered by the teacher, and little is left to the innovation of the student. This is not usually a bone of contention with the students. Most accept that they have to pass exams, many will blame the teacher as not being “good” – or worse adjectives, equally many will blame themselves, but few will blame the test and almost none would say that the test is designed for them to fail. The nearest expression concerning the content is expressing the sentiment “what is the point? I’m bound to fail.” The teacher mutters encouraging platitudes and life goes on.

But what if we attempted to change these mindsets? What if the teacher did not have to deliver a set curriculum, and what if the student were judged on knowledge or understanding they have obtained independent of any curriculum?

Previously I have not discussed curriculum as it matters little when you consider the problems the corporatocracy creates. The curriculum is an adjunct to the testing. Take my subject maths – a subject that most curricula globally consider core. The corporatocracy is not concerned whether students learn maths, the maths that the CEOs need is carried out by computers and analysts, it is the mindset that is the result of the education process that is needed. And that mindset comes from accepting the education system as it is delivered in all its aspects and conforming to it with top marks – no matter what is delivered. Once you have been inculcated into the school system, then the next step is to be inculcated into the business system conforming to all its aspects – including its heartlessness – in order to gain top positions. Every business is different and therefore a curriculum learnt at school is not important except as a structure for providing conformity.

In school the measure of conformity is the testing. Everything is geared towards the tests, and the essence of testing is that a few pass and most fail. Suppose all these appalling carrot and stick impositions currently being placed on teachers’ salaries actually worked and they were able to get blood from the stone – exam successes, the authorities would simply move the goalposts – they do not want everyone to pass especially those who have not been oriented to accepting the prevailing system – the status quo. The exoteric curriculum is just a statement of attainments vaguely connected to the tests mattering little, the esoteric curriculum of creating failure and conformity is the essential curriculum that the corporatocracy is interested in.

Once you introduce the quality portfolio the issue of testing is not a problem – there are no measures connected to failure. But in terms of empowerment it is essential to consider the value of the curriculum. For democratic empowerment we want students to learn and be confident in their learning. Firstly this means the removal of testing, testing empowers only a few. Now the quality portfolio assesses educational aspects such as critical thinking, insight and whatever other value-orientated criteria is placed on the QP. Such a QP will not reference knowledge attainments, and knowledge attainment is what is essentially contained in a syllabus. So this empowerment, or autonomous mastery, removes the need for syllabi. What other aspects of the curriculum is there? Once you go beyond the basic skills of early years education such reading and writing – as discussed earlier as WARC (in Chapter 9), there is the accepted balance of subjects, arts, science and social science – as well as a certain amount of physical development. Then there is an acculturalisation element, not usually much, what might be contained in civics. Now how much of these components relate to autonomous mastery – empowerment?

In a sense that question is completely rhetorical – almost irrelevant. If the student is determining their own learning through their own autonomous mastery, then curricular knowledge attainment is irrelevant. In terms of this mastery what matters is the process, the determination, the level of innovation, and their methodology of learning, all of these demonstrate mastery and can be evaluated on the QP.

Curriculum and testing become a thing of the past as the student seeks their own knowledge – and their own empowerment through attainment of that knowledge and the mastery thereof. Evaluation of that knowledge becomes an essential vehicle for empowerment. If the learning approach is able to deliver an environment to enable autonomous mastery, the evaluation thereof is the essence of the empowerment. There are two aspects to this empowerment. The first aspect is the autonomous mastery, the student empowers themselves through the attainment of knoweldge by their own mastery gaining a confidence in their own abilities. This is very important but empowerment doesn’t stop there, this mastery needs also to be recognised by society, that recognition eseentially cones from the teacher at the moment. So despite a better educational method we are still stuck with the leader complex – the teacher.

Much of this leader complex that exists in our current education system has been obviated by Matriellez as the teacher is not seen as the deliverer of knowledge but the student is seen as the discoverer of knowledge – the master of their own learning. This is not as ridiculous as perhaps it might first seem. What about those first drawings of mummy and daddy? Objectively compared to Turner or Picasso they are pathetic, but they are mastery for that stage of development. Parents have no trouble in empowering that mastery. Imagine if at that stage the child were asked to pass a test on whether that drawing could pass Art 101 (or an appropriate level) how disillusioned and unmotivated those children would become. At home parental love encourages the students, in many cases in primary classrooms the teacher’s love adds encouragement, but in the end the student’s mastery is put to the sword by the testing system and they become failures.

For the QP the evaluation of that “drawing” or any piece of work needs to reflect their process, personal mastery and an objective mastery. This is very difficult. For this evaluation to be democratically empowering it needs to be democratically done – peer evaluation. Aaagh! To me that sounds gross for something as important as the QP being taken into the world of work, yet from all accounts peer evaluation works. It is not something I have tried as I am old school leading as teacher. Peer assessment with teacher arbitration, can that work?

I must reflect on it. It is certainly democratic. My first reflection is the appalling cliques that exist in school in which the biggest jock is the most popular and this might lead to “jock” favouritism or “cheerleader” favouritism. At the same time the most intelligent in our current system often become outcasts, an image they often choose to cultivate – geeks. If such were the criteria of peer evaluation for the QP then that would lead to a dumbing-down of education – even lower than it already is. But if the education model were changed and these popular students were not failures and therefore envious of the academically successful, perhaps peer evaluation could work. If the teacher provides the sole evaluation then there is no democracy, if the evaluation is solely peer the wrong attributes might be the criteria – not on paper but a downgrading based on emotion, with the teacher as arbitrator there might be a balance.

I need to look into this peer evaluation as a genuine form of democratic empowerment.


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