Connect. Collaborate. Risk. Innovate.

Connect. Collaborate. Risk. Innovate.

Monday, 8 September 2014

What if the Answer Was Always, "Yes"?

          What if every time a student, parent or staff member had a suggestion, the answer was always a resounding "yes"? That is the "default answer" that principal Peter Hutton of Templestowe College in Australia gives when he is approached by members of his school community.
          Last week, I came across a tweet posted by Kath Murdoch (@kjinquiry), a teacher, author, educational consultant and university lecturer from Australia who works in the field of inquiry based learning and integrative curriculum. She is also one of the featured speakers at the upcoming #TedxWestVancouverEd conference on September 27th.
Murdoch's tweet referenced an article showcasing some of the innovations that are occurring at Templestowe College, in Australia. 

          What initially piqued my interest, was a reference to "multi-aged" learning. Recently, I participated in an impromptu Twitter discussion between myself and several colleagues, sparked by Jim Lamond (JLamond36) and Bal Ranu (@BalRanu), administrators in the Surrey school district, who were exploring the topic of differentiated instruction. As often occurs during these impromptu discussions, our conversation evolved, and at one point, the concept of multi-aged instruction was introduced. At Templestowe College, in addition to encouraging students to develop and personalize their own curriculum, students are grouped not by age level, but by interest and ability. In the article, Hutton notes that by next year, "the college will abolish year levels. From the end of their first year at the school students will study at whatever level is appropriate for them. There are no compulsory subjects after year 7, and students choose their course from more than 120 elective subjects." Additionally, in his "Principal's Message", Hutton comments that the school has "deliberately removed many of the restrictions that 'traditional' schools place on students, such as year level structures, single age classes and authoritarian hierarchy structures". Interestingly, Templestowe does have a uniform policy. I'm also wondering how the "appropriate" level for students is determined.
          But what ultimately struck me was this concept of "yes" as the "default answer". Hutton does qualify his "yes rule" somewhat by noting that there may be exceptions if a suggestion might "take too much time, too much money or negatively impact someone else". But with over 120 elective courses offered, and an opportunity for students to "make up their own subject", I get the sense that this is a relatively rare occurrence.
         Is this what is ultimately necessary for true innovation to occur in our schools? What if all of our district and school leaders adopted a "yes as the default answer" approach?



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