The best piece of advice I was given when I started blogging was ‘Write often, and write freely’ (Andrew Morrish).
The feeling of being able to blog freely is empowering and liberating; especially so when it’s regarding something your soul is on fire with. Imagine not having the freedom to run with your purpose!
My current blaze is regarding child initiated learning. I may even be so bold as to call it play. Or discovery. Regardless of what you call it, the reason it sets children onto the road to a love of learning is because it’s purposeful. A skilled teacher who steps in at the right time to challenge and deepen learning can have revolutionary impact.
I rather naively assumed this was viewed as more than ideology. Having been teaching in EYFS both prior to and since the framework was first introduced in 2008 I have seen first hand how better children thrive, and achieve, especially with the importance placed on characteristics of effective learning. I was gutted to learn that there are professionals in education who actually don’t see the point of child initiated learning.
Teaching academics. Not OFSTED. Not DFE. Although the rhetoric is the same. The research goes on to say, ““It is about creating opportunities for what inspires children, not planning according to a narrow curriculum. We are trying to encourage flexibility so clever and effective teachers are attuned to what interests youngsters’ – In a new book from Routledge published next month.
Narrow and flexibility – key words. Although the (non-statutory) learning and development aspect of EYFS (Early Years Outcomes) is broad and well received by EYFS professionals, the many outcomes cannot be achieved by narrow adult instruction. They require children to display characteristics of effective learning requiring them to take risks, explore and think critically. To enable them to do this requires flexibility.
Flexibility requires a growth mindset – both on the part of the child and the adult. The child to pursue and take the risk, the adult to abandon all else and support. If we don’t allow young children to make choices and lead, how will we encourage a growth mindset in KS1, KS2, secondary and beyond? How children learn in EYFS has enormous impact on the kind of learners they will become. For the record, prior to EYFS, I taught A-Level, GCSE, KS3 and KS1. I loved A-Level and GCSE, but the difficulties in trying to engage students in choice, independent learning and resilience at 16 is HUGELY more difficult than at 4! It had been, for them, a lost set of skills. Skills which to then go on to university without, from a tough working class area would do little to help them thrive.
Luckily education has changed greatly since I taught A-Level. There is a big focus on growth mindset. Building Learning Power (for my school in the form of Learning PowerTools) has been successful in giving pupils the tools to be resilient, independent learners. Schools which have this approach will be more closely dovetailed with EYFS and the transition smoother as their independence and choices continue to be actively encouraged and celebrated.
So bringing the learning back to that 4 year old, who I want to be that independent learner at 18, what are the choices? Impose on them my planned outcomes through a rigid, top down, didactic approach to their learning which will have no purpose to their life or experiences? Or let them achieve those outcomes, plus many many more by following their lead and making their learning purposeful, exciting and meaningful?