Child-oriented Education in a Learning School


How do you grow towards child-oriented education?

There is a loud call for child-oriented and personalized education. But what do you do if the current system has not yet been set up? How do you shape a transition to child-oriented education? What kind of development process is needed for this? This article describes, on the one hand, a learning process of change. In addition, it provides insight into phasing and variants of personalized and child-oriented education.

Child-oriented Education in a Learning School

Structure of this article:

  • Intro: change on two levels

A. A learning process

  • Unambiguous vision and goals
  • Professional teaching
  • Autonomy of teachers and students
  • Collective learning

B. Child-oriented education

  • Activity-driven versus learning-oriented innovation
  • Dimensions of education
  • The dimensions and their extremes
  • Process and content in schedule

C. Variants of school concepts

  • Views of teachers
  • Variant 1: Traditional
  • Variant 2: Adaptive
  • Variant 3: Flexible
  • Variant 4: Innovative
  • Variant 5: Future-oriented

Intro: change on two levels

In recent years, the vision on learning and development of children has changed. The learning environment has in many cases not changed. The same also applies to the vision on learning in organizations. Many schools did not go along with that. At many schools, changes imposed from above were introduced from above. That is actually what happened in the classes: the method determines what has to be done and the teacher ensures that the students learn it. Not only the year of learning classes is therefore bankrupt. The way in which school organizations implement changes is also in need of change!

Self-management and collaborative learning

This changed vision on learning and development therefore requires a change on two levels: The learning environment of the pupils must change from subject matter-oriented to child-oriented education. And the learning environment of the team members must change to a learning organization. In essence, both processes are similar processes. The teachers play a crucial role in this with their mental images of good education, differences between pupils and their own role in this. The views of teachers determine what the education looks like.

Both situations involve self-management and collaborative learning . The reflective dialogue plays an essential role on both levels. Children who develop ownership must learn to reflect on their own learning process. And teachers who develop their education are faced with the same task of being reflective.

“The views of teachers determine what education looks like”

Development process

The question is, of course, how do you end up with the ‘old thinking’ in this new way of working? Considering the assumption that learning takes place linearly, we immediately want an order and a step-by-step plan. It is not that easy, however. There are all kinds of routes to child-oriented education. After all, every school has its own starting situation, its own team and also makes its own choices regarding the goals of education.

So learning does not proceed linearly from step 1 to step 2, yet certain themes do build on each other. For example, it is difficult to introduce personalized learning if the children have hardly done anything with working independently.

This sequence applies both to child-oriented education and to grow to a learning school. So for both the content and the process, there is a certain sequence. Call them ‘stepping stones for a development-oriented change process.’

A. A learning process

Unambiguous vision and goals

Start the change process by thinking about the vision of good education and the added value as a school. What do we want to achieve with the pupils when they leave school? Do not get stuck in container concepts like ‘preparing for society’. For good ownership of the teachers, it is necessary that this vision is converted into clear, concrete and inspiring targets

Make sure that the current situation is actually experienced as a problem. If that is not the case, then a change process is not experienced as a solution to problems and bottlenecks. It is then added and is experienced as extra work pressure.

Work out each element of the vision as a team in targets that describe tangible behavior. “In our school, we see children who …”. And such children ask some of the teachers. So: “In our school, we see teachers who ..”. And that requires something from the school management … Such targets are immediately concrete success indicators that make learning the school visible.

Conversely, you determine which current problems and bottlenecks may no longer occur in the school at any given time. After all, you do not start a change process for anything.

Professional teaching

Ensure ownership of the teachers. After all, professional teaching is ownership! The term professional refers not only to the profession of teaching but also to the level of self-management, of which self-development is an important part. As a teacher, you are therefore a role model for the pupils. An important pillar of child-oriented education is the ownership of pupils. You can not take children further than you have been yourself. The interaction between ownership of teachers and ownership of pupils is, therefore, an important aspect in growing towards child-oriented education.

Ownership of teachers and apprentices

In this context, it is important to discuss which views there are about the ownership of teachers and children. To what extent is it just in the school to take initiative, make their own choices and dare to make mistakes out of responsibility? The role of the school leader is crucial in this. Only if the school leader gives the teachers autonomy, can the teacher continue this to the children? The school leader must get the autonomy of the board and the governing board. The point is therefore that all layers of an organization have the same vision and propagate it.

This ownership can also be seen because teachers are prepared to take responsibility and to take responsibility by contributing constructively and to capacity demonstrably to educational development.

Collective learning

Organize collective learning through regular inspiration sessions and consultation moments. Joint learning plays a crucial role in a good development process. Individual teachers who take good initiatives and learn a lot are of course important. It only really benefits the school if this knowledge is shared with colleagues and is learned collectively from each other’s experiences. This collective learning must be linked to the common objectives that are being pursued. The reflective dialogue plays an essential role in this. When evaluating initiatives, it is important to ask questions about learning. How does this learning moment contribute to our shared goals?

In this context, collective means clearly not: all at once and all the same. It is precisely the differences between teachers that must be recognized and given space. Those differences may be right if everyone stays involved.

We organize two afternoons per school year where we have colleagues who have nice examples of personalized learning to tell other colleagues why what and how they do this.

We also ask them to expressly state that innovations are not always successful and that they also have uncertainties. It is precisely by sharing this and by hearing from other colleagues how it is possible that we have noticed that schools could make easier steps.

After an afternoon we also noticed that schools were going to look together. This year we have had an inspiration round. We canceled the second round, but we gave the schools the assignment that all teachers had to visit another school, inside or outside the foundation. This is being used very enthusiastically.

So collective learning is possible with colleagues from the school and with colleagues from other schools. Our experience is that schools would like to show what they are doing.

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