Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Getting Personal

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Getting Personal

Article excerpt

Many years ago, on a professional development course, I remember a guest speaker holding up a painting of a man wandering through a wood with his grandchild. The child appeared rapt as grandad pointed to the fascinating things around them.

"Isn't this the ideal in primary education?" asked the speaker. "A one-to-one learning situation, with a child interacting with his environment, absorbed by the wisdom, knowledge and experience of an older person."

Politicians regularly extol the virtues of "personalised education", saying that learning, particularly at primary level, should be tailored to individual needs. Educationalist Sir Ken Robinson speaks passionately about creativity in young children, and how we are killing it by force-feeding them a diet of basic subjects and never giving them a chance to experiment, create, invent or design.

The trouble is, even though it's highly desirable, personalising education for small children is difficult. Even those who advocate it seldom say how it can be achieved.

In the 1960s, the Plowden report went a long way towards the promotion of individual learning and creativity. Prior to this, children in most classrooms sat in rows and did the same thing at the same time.

Suddenly, teachers were expected to facilitate rather than instruct, to find out what a child was interested in and design a curriculum around that child. This would be fine for grandad and his grandson in the wood, but for teachers who had 30 needy children in a classroom it was near impossible. …

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