I recently had a parent remind me that “the world has changed” and education must do so too. That conversation led to a discussion about various styles of pedagogy, curricula, and learning environments. The parent was advocating for a less structured, discovery-based outdoor program, in which children had lots of choices to follow their own interests and discover the natural world.
It was suggested that being outdoors, in nature, produced greater creativity and promoted learning. Now, there is a great deal packed into this topic, more than I have time for in a short blog. And while there is no doubt that being outdoors has health benefits, I have witnessed the type of school suggested by the parent.
There is no arguing that the world is changing – it always has and always will – and since the inception of formalized education, there has been debate about what works best. There is a current movement towards self-paced, self-directed, inquiry-based learning. And as intuitively good as that sounds, there is little research-supported evidence to back it up with school-age children.
Personally, I am a big fan of sports and the outdoors, having been a high-level athlete, coach, and outdoorsman.
That said, as an educator, I am a big fan of research. The largest study of educational research continues to be the one conducted by John Hattie, who collected 1200 meta-analyses (studies of the studies involving many millions of data points), first published in 2009, and updated several times since. It is available here. The research reinforces many things, including the importance of the teacher in the classroom, the effectiveness of direct instruction, and the limited value of inquiry-based instruction, among other surprising results.
At TASIS Portugal, we believe in our curriculum and our pedagogy. We believe that having good teachers who are supported by a solid game plan for learning, teaching the topics that mankind has accepted as the tenets of civilization, is the best way to prepare young people for an uncertain future.
We believe that teacher-guided instruction, combined with thoughtful experimentation and punctuated by movement and exercise – indoor and out – best supports child development.
We believe exposure to the arts, music, coding, games of strategy, rhetoric, performance, and the essential literacies (reading, writing, speaking, numeracy) is a winning formula for most students.
We will, of course, continue to tweak our timetables, and even examine our programming to create what we believe, and research supports are the best approaches to learning. We also welcome conversations with our community regarding the progress and growth of our students.