Round table: Leading today’s centers: challenges of an innovative center.
Chairs: Ferran Ruiz, president of the School Council of Catalonia.
Is it possible to consolidate and maintain innovative learning environments? What changes — regulation, budget, culture — should be introduced? What experiences can be used as a reference?
Ramon Grau, director of the INS Quatre Cantons of the Network of Innovative High Schools of the ICE-UAB.
Sometimes a change is required to enable further changes: a change of scenario, a change of team, or just building a new school or high school.
Three main ideas:
- The student should work in the classroom: listen, speak, interact. This has an impact on the inner architecture of the physical spaces.
- The student should have autonomy. Thus, no coursebooks.
- The student should be proficient in managing information. Put questions, search for answers. Students should be able to provide evidence, to explain what they have learnt.
To do this, the centre works with the “globalized” model developed after Ovide Decroly. The centre also accepts requests from other institutions (theatres, museums, fablabs) for collaboration, with which they develop the globalized work after an external request. The students then develop these requests (write a play, multimedia content for a piece of art, create a short film) that are supervised by these institutions.
Mariona Monterde, head of studies at the School Serralavella, Ullastrell.
The school is highly commited with values and quality. The classroom is not a place, but a context for learning, learning being the ability of the students to put questions to themselves. In the classroom research processes are initiated to that answers to the former questions can be find.
This research heavily relies on conversation, on the exchange of information, ideas, feelings, etc.
As this is a project based on reflection, the project explicitly includes several measures and tools to enable reflection, not only within the project, but about it: pedagogical reflection, share experiences developed in the classroom, etc.
One of the main challenges for the sustainability of the project is the high rotation of the team: experiences are lost and newcomers get lost. Thus, monitoring and tutoring of most experiences and people is the way to try to maintain some coherence and continuity of the project. With the added problem of how to draw a possible schedule, how to avoid burnout, how to avoid an overwhelming workload.
This monitoring has to be highly flexible, and provide lots of room for the newcomer to experiment himself and to change the project itself.
Not all families understand the school project. Most of the times, they feel they lose control upon the education of their children, as their children do “different things” than the ones they parents did at school. The solution is to engage parents in the educational project.
Some concluding remarks:
- The school has become a place for the teachers for continuous learning and training.
- The school has become a place for the students where to learn how to be autonomous, critical.
Joan Badia, co-coordinator of the Project Leading for learning of the Fundació Jaume Bofill.
What are the elements of leadership that explain the improvements in education? Leadership is the engine of change for education by introducing innovation.
One common characteristic of leading and innovative centres is that teachers state that they learn from the students: everyone is learning. The most significant changes are the ones experienced at the personal level, including the teaching staff. And learning means, of course, deciding, participating, exploring, sharing, designing, deciding (again).
Q: is there a room for the coursebook in this scenario? Ramon Grau: it depends on the context. If the goal is sheer literacy or the transmission of basic knowledge, then it does have a place; but if the goal is the creation of new knowledge, then the coursebook is a barrier and not an enabler. Same with homework: homework will depend on the context, on the activities that are planned: sometimes homework will not be necessary, sometimes will be required as a starting point for the following day.
Ismael Peña-López: how should families adapt to these changes? Badia: this is impossible to answer, as there is not a unique model of family or, strictly speaking, not a model. Grau: the least we should aim at is that families understand what centres are doing, that they are engaged, that they share what is being done at the school or high school.
Q: how teacher training reproduces traditional methodologies or how can it foster new ones? Grau: it is true that, generally speaking, teacher training reproduces traditional methodologies and approaches and it is practice what brings innovation in.
Q: what happens when standardized exams make it almost impossible to introduce any methodological change? Ramon Grau: why cannot we work differently in specific courses despite the pressure of standardized exams?
Jordi Adell: do we know how to make the “click” for change? Badia: no, we don’t. We know that some scenarios, some factors help, but do not know exactly how to trigger this “click”.