Over the past decade, there have been countless reforms to the education system in this country. New guidelines, different examination process, numerous teaching methods. What stands out most, however, is the fact that schools and teachers are having more and more control over a students learning. The practise of teaching nowadays sees lecturers outline what needs to be achieved in a lesson, before walking the students step by step to the right answer.
This method of teaching is important for core subjects, such as maths, science and english. But there must be an element in a schools timetable which allows children to be proactive and work independently. This mollycoddling of students is only acceptable to an extent. Obviously for children in primary school, independent working isn’t a priority. However, for secondary school students, in year 8 and year 9, there must be measures introduced which can allow children to take their learning by the scruff of the neck.
Students in their early teens crave independence, which is why, sometimes, the rules and authority of a school can be the catalyst for bad behaviour. Group projects where students can work amongst themselves are few and far between in a schools syllabus.
A report by the Institute of Education at London University which was featured in The Guardian, suggests that teachers should act as ‘guides on the sides’ of groups, instead of the typical teaching dynamic of a whole class lecture. The report, which featured more than 4,000 students, found that children who worked in groups made more rapid progress in class and behaved well. Pupils became more focused on their work and the amount of thoughtful discussion between children more than doubled in many classes, the study found.
Group working doesn’t just have a positive effect on a childs academic progress, either. When working as part of a group, the leadership skills each child will display is hugely beneficial for when they enter the workplace, and they are skills that stay with a student.
When I use the term ‘working independently,’ I don’t mean it in the traditional sense of working on your own. Group working is essential, and the independent aspect means that students aren’t mentored by their teacher all the time. They should be allowed to be left alone to work, and the teachers should just keep an eye on them.
The reason schools aren’t producing enough leaders, or aren’t equipping enough students with leadership skills, is because schools haven’t realised the importance of group working. Homework and the occasional group project tackles this dilemma to an extent, but not to the level that constant group working would.
A report published by The Independent claims that schools are turning into ‘exam factories’ and are only interested in academic results rather than student development and progress. The CBI, who conducted the report, claims that schools don’t prepare students for a life at work to a sufficient level.
However, in the article which was published last year, it claims that new measures would be introduced to change the way students are assessed in certain subjects. For example, implementing practical experiments in the science laboratory that will be assessed separately.
Assessments like this will benefit the students eduction but will also get them thinking and working independently. They will be taught the theory and the process, but the practical side of the task allows the child to work on their own and think for themselves. Compare this to the workplace, the student is given the correct training and taught the specific skills, and then they should be expected to get on with it and work on their own.
This problem in education stems from the early stages of schooling, but also continues to a higher level. Universities throw students into the life of being independent, both in their personal life and their academic life. University lecturers will give students the resources to succeed and expect students to take charge of their learning. However, by the time a typical students arrives at their halls and residence, they have already warmed to the idea that they will be told what to do and walked step by step through their course, just like lower education. Unsurprisingly, this comes as a shock to many Uni students.
This jump in education can be lessened, however. By simply finding a small amount of time in a timetable which will allow children to participate in fun and engaging group activities, this will teach students quality leadership skills and will install a degree of responsibility in them.
It’s really quite simple. Schools will produce more leaders when they allow students to lead.