It’s another year brimming with changes to education in the UK. Assessing without levels wobbles along an uncertain path and new exam specifications are just getting started in many secondary and sixth form subjects, but I, along with many other teachers, hold concerns about how far these changes will prepare our students for their future in a rapidly changing world.
I am a secondary school English teacher from the UK and I’m going to be blogging while I travel in Finland and Denmark, where I’ll be exploring assessing without levels, “open architecture” lesson design and “school-free” pedagogy in the hope of finding inspiring practice to benefit teachers and educational institutions in the UK. I’m able to do this thanks to funding from the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust, who you should check out if you’d like to travel whilst researching something you feel passionate about. See their website here: http://www.wcmt.org.uk.
This is a somewhat serious opening gambit to my blog because I want to outline the purpose of my trip so, if you’d like to hear more about my general gallivanting around Finland, now is a good time to move on to my next blog post! If you’d like more background information on how I came to be here, please read on:
The Finnish and Danish education systems value ingenuity, creativity and risk-taking because, as well as knowledge, students need to develop their ability to apply and repurpose knowledge. Therefore, teachers need methods of teaching the curriculum that equip children with transferable skills and expertise to make them employable in a world of every-changing technological advancement.
“School-free” pedagogy supports the aim of Finnish education to facilitate learners, and thereby a workforce, capable of innovation, open-mindedness and creation. Whilst, the Danish aim to “instil in [students] the desire to learn more” and the employment of “open-architecture” learning enables “the well-rounded development of the individual student”. Such holistic aims mean that traditional values of teaching facts have been replaced by critical thinking, problem-solving and learning how to learn. I hope to explore how these aims are put into practice in the classroom.
Finland has established a global reputation as a model educational nation, consistently at the top of OECD international education system rankings and it is, according to the Finnish education minister, built on equality: all schools are “good” schools and individual talents are fostered. A recent study by the Smithsonian Institution showed that the difference between Finland’s weakest and strongest students was the smallest in the world despite teaching mixed ability classes and the absence of gifted programmes, selective grammars and private schools.
In Finland and Denmark, I’ll observe lessons, interview teachers and students, and visit teacher training schools to better understand how teachers employ pedagogies that instil values of innovation, open-mindedness and flexibility in the hope of bringing ideas home for the use of UK teachers. I’ll also use my blog to share any findings with the global teaching community.
I’m really looking forward to my Nordic travels and I hope you’ll follow along.