So what did the Learning School students find? What did they discover that may enhance our understanding? What of their findings might penetrate the policy agenda? What should feed into professional development opportunities for headteachers, for teachers, for school governors or school boards and for parents?
The chapters which follow start with the place called school and how it is seen from a student perspective. The commonality of student experience is perhaps even more surprising than the differences. Students in all countries tend to like school, largely because it is a social place, a place to make friends, a compensation, in part at least, for the common feeling that school life is 'stressful' and 'difficult'. Schools have a remarkable similarity across the globe, especially secondary schools with their subjects, timetables, examinations, age-related cohorts, lessons, usually in the context of one teacher one class. We are led inexorably to question the value and effectiveness of that age-old way of packaging and transmitting knowledge, curiously inappropriate for a twentyfirst-century world.
What students appreciate about their teachers seems also to be universal in character. The world over, teachers are people who are themselves interested in learning, student-centred, people who make their classrooms relaxed as well stimulating places, enjoy a joke, vary their teaching and listen to their students' points of view. Judgements of teachers are made predominantly in the context of 'lessons', the well-worn, traditional structure of teaching and learning, but the exploration of lessons reveals how ineffective that can be for some students who find themselves left behind, disengaged, and in a situation out of sympathy with their learning needs and learning styles, studying subjects in which they have no interest and in which time hangs heavily. Teachers themselves profess to be caught, along with their students, in this trap, time rushing too fast past them to really engage with deep and meaningful learning.
As we move through these chapters we get progressively closer to how young people strive to make meaning of their classroom experience, each student living out his or her individual life in their classroom. We get a picture of what the school day means for them, peaks and troughs of motivation and of learning. And as we follow them from school to home we get a fascinating glimpse of