Even a conventional school can become home to some innovation. I think, however, that the expression “Innovative School” ought to refer not to schools that host one innovation or another, but to schools capable of innovating themselves – that is, of creating themselves anew.
To create itself anew a school must rethink its pedagogical vision: its view of education, of learning, and of its own role in the learning of its students.
To be innovative today the school must shed the traditional notion that education is the process by which older generations transmit their culture heritage to the new ones. This process, besides being centered on the needs of society and focused on the past, neglects the fact that human beings are born incomplete (incompetent and dependent) and that education is the process by means of which they become competent and autonomous adults. Education, thus understood, is a process centered on the needs of the individual and focused on the future.
To learn is not to assimilate information: it is to become capable of doing that which one could not do before. Thus, learning aims at building competencies and expanding capacities.
The school is a formal learning environment the objective of which is to help students learn what they ought to learn in order to become competent and autonomous adults. Since helping students build competencies and autonomy is essential to the school, the school must be democratic, a place where students are capable of practicing their competencies and their autonomy.
Given that we are all different from one another, the curriculum of an innovative school ought to be sufficiently rich, and its implementation sufficiently flexible, to take into account the unique talents and different interests of the students. A “one-size-fits-all” curriculum is inadmissible.
Its methodology ought to recognize that there are many ways of learning essential and important things. Letting students free to choose the projects in the course of which they will learn what they need or want is a way of respecting their freedom to learn and solving the difficult challenge of motivation. But the focus must be on the development of competencies and autonomy.
Learning assessment, finally, ought to contribute to student learning as well, and not merely bring out what students have not learned. So, learning assessment must not be a series of episodic events that take place periodically in the school: it must be integrated into the very fabric of the school and must be focused on ascertaining whether students are developing their competencies and autonomy.
Are there many schools willing to create themselves anew according to this vision?
[This article appeared in Microsoft APAC’s PIL Newsletter]
Oulu, on the 1st of November of 2007