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Creating the Future

 


CREATING THE FUTURE:

Perspectives on Educational Change

 

Compiled and Edited by

Dee Dickinson


Copyright © 1991, 1996, 1998, 2002 New Horizons for Learning, all rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced in any form, electronic
or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information
storage and retrieval system without permission in writing from
New Horizons for Learning
A printed version of this book is available as:
ISBN 0-905553-32-2


CONTENTS

Acknowledgments

Foreword

Introduction


Foreword
John Goodlad

In recent years, Dee Dickinson increasingly has become both a catalyst for and an integrator of "cutting edge" ideas pertaining to the education of children and youths. "Cutting edge" may not be the most accurately descriptive word in that it conjures up for some people concepts that are new and perhaps untried. But the distinctive nature of Dee Dickinson's contribution is that the ideas she seeks to bring to the forefront are not necessarily new. Some have survived centuries of thought; most have a solid history in at least the 20th century. Clearly, many of the ideas synthesized are brought forward in fresh form only because they are sound and cannot readily be pushed aside. The irony is that many remain on the cutting edge, tried in only a few places, to disappear for a while, because they are overwhelmed by the relentless cycles of tradition and convention.

Another significant aspect of the synthesizing effected by Dee Dickinson is the extent to which she gives recognition to a wide range of relatively small projects-a school here, a cluster there, a school-university collaboration somewhere else, and so on. Hers is a celebration of grassroots educational reform. There is not anywhere in her work a movement or a "gee-whiz" advocacy of techniques designed for universal adoption. What is brought forward throughout is not a formula but rather sets of concepts and principles designed to enhance the largely self-directed learning of young people and the adults who work with them.

At the turn of the century, William James referred to "the soft and tender" and "the hard and tough" as characterizing the warp and woof of our society, and discussed the desirable tension between the two in the context of education and schooling. He saw these two elements combining in a strong fabric. Unfortunately, this is not the scenario that came to be played out in our schools or, for that matter, in education generally. Successive periods of reform have been strongly marked by either the hard and tough or the soft and tender but not both together. The excesses of one during a given period created the excesses of the other in a subsequent era. Reform, then, more often than not has been merely change rather than representative of steady progress.

The content of this book, Creating the Future: Perspectives on Educational Change, provide us with a rewarding example of concepts that, more often than not, appear to be somewhat on the side of the soft and tender. When one digs more deeply, however, it becomes increasingly apparent that educational principles and practices directed to the maximization of individual talent and potential are anything but soft in regard to their actual functioning, whether one is teacher or student or both. The setting of "tough" standards is easy. Holding individuals accountable for attaining them is easy, but also slippery. The true standards of individual growth are non-external, they lie within and can be met only by individual effort. The role of the teacher is to nurture this effort in every possible way.

There is only one disappointment in this collection of essays: each is short and one seems only to be beginning to enjoy it, when suddenly it ends. But to stop with this observation is to miss the point-the cumulative impact is enormous. Here we have the essence of the fundamental views of educational leaders who hold much in common, but whose particular perspectives and examples are unique. Just as Dee Dickinson in other work has introduced us to a wide variety of educational settings to commend, she introduces us here to carefully worked out ideas and proposals put forward by able people who have thought much about what lies behind their individual contributions.

In this period of thousands of educational reform reports, sweeping and often simplistic recommendations for educational reform, national slogans, and repetition of mostly the economically utilitarian role of education in our society, these essays are extraordinarily refreshing. I commend them to you.

John I. Goodlad
Professor of Education
Director, Center for Educational Renewal
University of Washington
March 1991


Introduction

Twenty-five points of view come together in this compilation of leading-edge ideas on education. Each writer offers a unique perspective based on a rich background of research or educational practice, and each contributes to "the big picture" that is forming of a new kind of education for our time. Considered together, their ideas are complementary; the sum total of these brief articles offers important implications for educational planning and practice. We draw some of these implications together in the conclusion.

Most of the writers are members of the International Advisory Board of New Horizons for Learning, an international education network. This network was formed ten years ago as a catalyst for bringing about positive change in education and as a resource and support system for educators seeking better ways of helping all their students to be successful at learning. The mission of the network is to "seek out, synthesize and disseminate relevant research supporting an expanded vision of education that increases awareness of human capabilities and offers educators and learners effective methods to develop these capacities more fully."

Since 1980, New Horizons for Learning has carried out its mission by providing current information to its members, publishing a newsletter and creating international conferences bringing together many of the experts whose articles are included in this book. These conferences have been the source of educational renewal for many schools, have resulted in new collaborations and projects, and have resulted in new networks of dedicated educators wherever they have been given.

One of the most recent conferences, "The Education Summit on Lifespan Learning" at George Mason University in Virginia, brought together experts in the field of education from pre-birth to old age. It was focused on the belief that intelligence can continue to develop throughout life, as long as, in the words of Marian Diamond, "individuals have an opportunity to learn in ways that are positive, nurturing, stimulating, and that encourage interaction and response." According to Diamond, who keynoted the conference, such learning and experience at any age creates better mental equipment and makes it possible to develop human capacities more fully than might otherwise be possible.

That is the hopeful theme of this little volume of bright ideas, which we trust will illuminate the thinking of teachers, school administrators, parents, legislators, business people, and other members of the community. There really is no limit to what is possible in human development when all the stakeholders in the educational enterprise share a common vision.

Arthur Costa's discusses the need for a global perspective for educational planning and practice. Is it possible for a whole country to transform its educational system in the light of current needs and current possibilities? Luis Alberto Machado has proved that it could be done in Venezuela.

Reuven Feuerstein's Theory of Structural Cognitive Modifiability is the basis for understanding that everyone can learn-at every age and ability level. His work on the modifiability of intelligence is clearly related to Marian Diamond's research on the plasticity of the brain. Barbara Clark's development of an integrated educational program begins to put cognitive research and effective educational practice together.

Noboru Kobayashi's discussion of learning in early childhood underscores Paul MacLean's research describing the importance of the emotional context of learning. Jane Healy further describes what can happen when these views are not taken into consideration in planning early learning experiences.

The theories of David Perkins, Howard Gardner, and Robert Sternberg are complementary as they touch upon many aspects of intelligence and the importance of making it possible for people to learn and develop through their strengths. When that happens it is most likely that individuals will experience more frequently what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi refers to as "flow states," and that kind of motivation makes it possible for students to engage in transforming knowledge into the "deep learning" described by Noel Entwistle.

Cultural differences also account for the diversity in how people learn, as discussed by Asa Hilliard. Furthermore, as shown by Paul Messier, the uniqueness of each individual within a culture must have an opportunity to be expressed.

All of these ideas point to new ways of educating human beings, as Robert McClure demonstrates from his extensive experience in school restructuring. What happens when communities themselves become centers of learning? Malcolm Knowles dreams about that possibility.

As technology escalates, it is crucial to keep the human element in education. Charles Fowler describes what the arts can do to humanize the curriculum. Linda Tsantis suggests that multimedia technology (a marriage of technology and the arts) can be utilized in ways that enhance the unique characteristics of each learner.

Lifelong learning becomes essential in today's world, as James Botkin points out in his discussion of learning in the workplace. The interest and involvement of the corporate community is now an important part of the educational scene. Learning goes on in every setting, but the environment is not always conducive to the process. Ann Taylor describes how well-planned architecture can actually become instrumental to education.

Shirley McCune presents a concluding piece on the process of restructuring education to meet the needs of diverse students and create a system where all can succeed. Clearly it is not an easy process, but she suggests ways to make it possible for any school.

Lest all these new/old ideas might at first seem rather abstract to teachers, we have asked Bruce Campbell, a third grade teacher, to describe how he has applied them to his own teaching. In addition, Linda MacRae Campbell, former director of New Horizons for Learning and director of teacher certification at Antioch University Seattle, describes the processes of change that schools go through when they implement innovative methods.

The real value of publishing the thinking of this distinguished group of individuals lies in what the reader will do with the information. We invite you to use this as a workbook. E-mail your reactions to us at info@newhorizons.org Make notes of how you could apply what you have read to your work or personal life. Think of who else would find the information useful. Use the ideas as springboards for generating insights of your own.

Together, we can create a more hopeful future for students of every age, and for the students in coming generations.

Dee Dickinson

Acknowledgments

We would like to extend heartfelt thanks to the members of New Horizons for Learning's International Advisory Council, who have contributed so generously and insightfully to this collection of important thoughts about education. Their vision is already having a profound effect in guiding educational planning and practice today and for the future.

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