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EDUCATION

12 Nov

For schools to make the jump from the 19th to the 21st century, they need to re-focus their attention.

Instead of worrying about the content of the syllabus, the form of assessment, or how to re-engage the disengaged, they need to ask: what kind of mind training — or, more formally, 'epistemic apprenticeship' — is going on, day in, day out, in classrooms? I show that any topic can be used to cultivate passivity, dependence and credulity, or to build resilience, creativity and self-evaluation. It depends on the physical, practical and pedagogical cultures that teachers create in their classrooms.

Globally there have been many recent attempts to do this re-focusing, with very mixed, not to say disappointing, results; this has often been because there has been insufficient clarity and precision about how teachers are being asked to change their practice. The Building Learning Power (BLP) approach, deriving from a growing network of academics, teachers and a small publisher, has spent the last 15 years researching what these practical shifts in pedagogy actually look like. Small changes are required in the way teachers conceptualize 'powerful learning', in the design of activities, in classroom discourse, in the attitudes towards learning which teachers model, in involving students in the design and evaluation of their own education, and in the forms of assessment used.

A recent evaluation shows the BLP approach to be effective in boosting student engagement and achievement, whilst at the same time strengthening the habits of mind that young people will need to thrive in the tricky, turbulent waters of the 21st century.

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