Sunday, October 26, 2014

TAB Across The Curricula

Last Spring, "Transition to Choice Based Art Education" became 10 years old. One of the themes that runs across this blog, and that theme is supported by other TAB art education blogs, is that human beings thrive in educational settings that support an individual's pursuit of creative learning activity. 

There is an interesting thread going on at the TAB Yahoo Group Discussion Forum on learner centered education (actually all the threads on that forum are related to learner centered education).

What would TAB look like in other subjects? 

If teachers did not have the anvil of standardized high stakes tests hanging over their heads, what kinds of creative pedagogy might teachers be free to practice in their classrooms? TAB pedagogy is not for everyone, but I could envision programs where highly creative teachers could prime enthusiastic students to investigate individual lines of flight where teacher acts as learning steward, inspirationalist, supporter and co-collaborator.

I'm not talking about student centered learning activity as a handmaiden to traditional data driven pedagogy in math or language arts. I'm talking about a TAB like student centered trans-disciplinary curriculum experience that is rhizomatic. As Clara Belle Baker once said, "No one can predict how far an individual child may go in a dynamic school system when an understanding teacher, using all the resources of the community, awakens his/her imagination and interest and thus releases his/her emotional drive." In rhizomatic curriculum structures, children typically go beyond the given information and are full partners in the design of curricula and assessment of learning.

American standardized education require teachers to deploy learning experience emphasizing selected-response, information-processing activities that necessitate students passive compliance and conformity. Just because the teacher greets you with a smile at the classroom door does not mean authoritarian structures of control do not exist. They do. 

Our education system is not sensitive to young citizens voices or their time sensitive ideas to the extent that democracy exists in the classroom. Unless you happen to be in a TAB art room, children are systematically outside the decision making process central to the learning activities they are compelled to participate in. 

Diane Jaquith and Nan Hathaway, ask the question in their essay, "Where's the Revolution?"

It is quite clear to me, high stakes standardized testing prevent children from co-collaborating as curricula designers with their teachers. Teachers are forced to design curricula around the prospect of standardized tests.

The bigger picture is troubling. Since educational experience is designed around test taking, and individual children's unique intellectual realms are not considered, we have a huge problem in this country with respect to student engagement and transformative learning.

What would personalized learning experience across the curricula look like? TAB teachers are among a handful of educators nationwide who practice holistic, child centered education on a regular basis. TAB knows personalized, child centered learning.

John Dewey and his protege William Heard Kilpatrick argued that traditional curriculum structures do not fit the flow of a child's experience. That's why individual relevance to learning experience is so important. In order for new learning to occur a learner must accept his experience and have an affection for it. 

The premise that children need to learn specific content in a fixed curriculum because "they will need to know this later on," is a false premise to me. Developmental timetables, innate capacities and intellects vary from child to child. If a learner is not motivated to practice what they have just learned, despite all the external rigor in the world, learning goes into one ear and out the other. That's why building learning upon strengths and interests is so important. Learners freely practice what they learn through play, strengths, interests and they remember new content and material scaffolded through these experiences. 

One of my questions is... if human beings are natural born learners, why would traditional schools of education take children out of their natural learning states and into an unnatural state? I'll let the reader ponder that one.

What goes on within the neural-networks of the brain during the act of learning is just as important as the content being learned. The act of learning should be consensual, democratic and it should promote an individual's desire to learn more and to do more. 

I have linked Eric Kandel's book, In Search of Memory in the last paragraph. There is a contradiction here that needs discussion. Kandel, in his own life experience, received a traditional liberal arts education. His educational experience was satisfactory for him and he went on to do important research in memory acquisition and neuroscience. What his research says is this. Learning experience, in order to maintain the attention of the learner, should be an emotionally satisfying, multi-sensory, joyful and intrinsically motivated event where the neurotransmitters, serotonin, dopamine and adrenaline are part of the physical experience of learning.

Experience where children are treated as blank slates, driven by radical behaviorism is not beneficial to learning as over time, what is learned is likely to go into one ear and out the other.

Designing curricula that is purposely flexible in order to optimize student's independent learning pathways requires a special teacher able to challenge learners with emergent curricula and go beyond the given information. Facilitating learning experience of which students are inspired partners in curricular decision making processes is part of the artistry of teaching TAB educators utilize on a regular basis. 

"Soldier Animation" by Stephen