Schools that recognize the need to prepare their students for a changing world are knowingly or unknowingly in the process of converting from an engineered process to a model based on the laws that govern natural ecosystems
Grant Lichtman, #EdJourney p210
- more dynamic – moving far away from one size fits all
- more adaptable – functioning like outside world and adaptable to future change
- more permeable – expanding learning beyond the four walls
- more creative – moving past consumption of knowledge
- self-correcting – based upon empathy, mindfulness and creativity
Using this, Grant proposes a model that shifts from Assembly-Line Education to a Learning Ecosystem.
The Learning Ecosystem Model of Education is based on the elements of:
- Evolution – in response to changing environmental conditions
- Diversity – of ideas and approaches
- Interconnectedness – flatter school hierarchies, bilateral relationships between teacher and student, connectedness between schools
- Resilience – due to inbuilt adaptability to change
- Permeability – boundaries have been pushed aside and the internet gives access to the cognitosphere.
- Free Flow of Energy and Resources – money, people, knowledge and time are reorganised, accessed and distributed in a flexible manner
- Building Structures – structures are created and dissolved based on current and future need
As I read the explanations of each element (much more in depth in the book than my brief summary above) I found myself nodding vigorously, dog earing pages and writing notes. This was all sending me back to my MEd thesis reading and writing on Complexity Theory in Education.
Complexity Theory is the study of complex, adaptive systems and essentially says that all parts of the system are linked through networks and the behaviour of the whole complex system is greater than the sum of its parts (see Complexity by Waldrop and The Hidden Connections by Capra for more). The four requirements for a complex adaptive system and how they relate to education can be seen as follows:
- Redundancy amongst agents – some shared experiences and understandings between those involved in the school
- Diversity amongst agents – different perspectives and opinions
- A means for agents to affect each other – in classrooms (like all social systems) this means is through communication. Collaborative learning with regular feedback loops can amplify this element
- Distributed, decentralised control structure – flatter hierarchies and participatory pedagogies enable this. Decentralised control also means no predetermined understandings: more growth minded than goal oriented.
This is not a chaos theory and uses constraints to enable creativity to occur (see my recent post on enabling constraints). It also goes against traditional conceptual change models that aim to move students from their “wrong” understanding to a “right” answer. Under complexity it is seen that students will interpret learning experiences differently according to diverse perspectives, what they have experienced previously and it is unpredictable as to exactly what understanding they will emerge with. Essentially, learning is an ongoing cognitive process where we can grow student understandings but not predetermine what that understanding is.
Complexity approaches to education situate teachers firmly in the middle working with students and as a part of the system (read Engaging Minds for an in depth exploration of Complexity in the Classroom). This aligns firmly with Grant Lichtman’s vision as teachers as the Farmers who are also part of the ecosystem (in EdJourney but also shared in this great article on Edutopia).
All of these aspects align well with the Supporting Future-oriented Learning and Teaching report by Rachel Bolstad and Jane Gilbert, so if the main question is:
How Might We remodel our school practices to ensure we are adaptive to future societal changes?
The Learning Ecosystem proposed by Grant Lichtman provides the guidelines for just how we can do this. This means the main question really is:
Why hasn’t your school started making the shift?
p.s. apologies as today I definitely broke the 28 minute rule of #28daysofwriting