In his book Learning by Heart
, Roland Barth states that he believes “it is possible to create a school culture hospitable to human learning if we invite students and adults to take risks with a safety net, engage in novel and surprising experiences, enjoy a sense of adventure and purposefulness, share leadership with others, pose and solve problems for themselves, find the joy and freedom that comes with hard work, assume responsibility not only for their own lives but for the lives of others, and make a contribution to others” ( 2001, p.51).
How do we strive towards providing the true meaning of hospitality, which the Oxford English Dictionary defines as “the friendly and generous reception of guests or strangers” in our schools? Are schools places of welcome and inclusion for all students regardless of background, culture and ability? Do the teaching practices speak to the belief that all
students can learn given the appropriate levels of challenge and support.
Creating a culture conducive to human learning is a challenging one for leaders. Bransford et al (2000) in the National Academy of Sciences study How People Learn - Brain, Mind, Experience and School
describes in depth a framework to help guide the design and evaluation of environments that can optimise learning. Four interrelated attributes of learning environments that need cultivation are identified (2000, pp, 23-25):1. Learner-centred environments
Learner-centred environments build on the concepts and understandings that participants bring with them to the learning experience. Teachers pay close attention to the knowledge, skills and attitudes that learners bring into the classroom. Cultural differences are attended to and students are taught that intelligence is not fixed and are encouraged that effort in learning yields learning gains. Learner centred environments are both safe and supportive and provide the appropriate level of challenge in the learners ‘zone of proximal development’. Teachers monitor individual progress and intervene when students are not making progress.2. Knowledge-centred environments
Knowledge-centred environments engage learners with well-organised bodies of knowledge that are fundamental to particular fields of study. Knowledge-centred environments focus on assisting learners to become knowledgeable by engaging them with content and in learning activities that lead to deep understanding and subsequent transfer and application.3. Assessment-centred environments
In assessment-centred environments teachers provide opportunities for feedback and reflection and ensure assessments are aligned with learning outcomes. In these environments assessment is ongoing and characterised by teachers continuously monitoring learner progress and providing feedback in ways that prompt learners to revise their thinking. Effective teachers use assessment results to inform, modify and improve their teaching practices. A feature of these classrooms is that they are learner-friendly.4. Community-centred environments
Learning is influenced in fundamental ways by the context in which it takes place. Such environments are characterised by students learning with and from one another to generate new knowledge for the purpose of cognitive development. Learning activities are designed to promote sharing and understanding of ideas and to build a sense of community. Community-centred environments facilitate cooperation and argumentation that aid the generation and ownership of new ideas as they apply to theory and practice. Schools develop ways to link classroom learning to other aspects of students’ lives. They engender support from parents and the broader community in the learning process.
Creating a spacious, generous and inviting place for learning that seeks to meet the needs of all learners is a goal worthy of our effort as leaders.
Bastow seeks to create such an environment for adult learners based on these design principles. We hope that you will find Bastow a place of hospitality and welcome as we support your leadership development in one of our many courses. We look forward to seeing you in 2013.