Why Change? Education as a dialogue.

The emphasis on moving beyond the simple to the more complex, as well as the emphasis on creating conditions within which students can pursue intellectual interests without arbitrary restrictions or rigid templates, is something that we can all relate to and appreciate as goals of our educational reform.

After all, if we don’t discover new and better things, and if we don’t develop improved skills, why change?

Teachers who encourage and help liberate the intellectual curiosity of students – and allow them the freedom to develop their own projects – are worth emulating, and provide an insight into a modern style of problem-based learning that is increasingly relevant at university level.

The ideas and experiments generated by Trinity College’s August Entry staff and students currently piloting the iPad potentially seem to fit with these possibilities of moving quickly through the simple to the more complex, encouraging exploration and genuine intellectual inquiry, and broadening the education horizon.

Resources are instantly at hand and easy to collect, annotate, contrast and compare. This gives time to do the important work of thinking, discussing, and evaluating. And students seem to be able to quickly create and deliver presentations.

I agree with the suggested idea by Jane Garton, one of our teachers at Trinity, about a forum within our organisation for conducting, sharing and discussing research and educational practice. And I know that some other staff, including Jennifer Mitchell and Gayle Allan, are keen to promote an education wiki.

We can use these collaborative tools to discuss the kinds of questions raised previously by Gary Stager, Mark Dorset and Pam Lawrence. And, for example, I agree that Gary promotes greater freedom and less structure in assessment. But contrary to Pam’s worry, I don’t believe Trinity could do away with exams or formal assessment. Trinity students are required to achieve a certain score for university entrance.

Perhaps what we need to do is broaden our definition of assessment, and also think about the way in which we conduct assessment or process our assessment.

Another of our Trinity colleagues David Gormley-O’Brien, for example, has an excellent system of electronically commenting on electronically-submitted work which not only sets a formal grade but tracks the backwards and forwards discussion between teacher and student that manifests education that is a dialogue and a process of progression. This is possible through an online learning environment such as Moodle, and is worthy of close scrutiny and discussion by our Foundation Studies staff.

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