Choosing a school – What type of school?

BCW teamInquiry, learning, Understanding Learners

Choosing a school – What type of school?

The next thing to think about is the type of school that you want to send your child/ren to. Some of the things that impact on how a school is run or how teaching is approached include the following:

  • Is the purpose of the school skill driven? Many American-style schools tend to have a system that is skill driven.
  • Is the purpose of the school to develop a knowledge base for recall and use? Many British-style schools tend to come from the foundation that knowledge recall is the primary purpose of education
  • Is the purpose of the school to develop understandings and strategies that are transferrable to the real world, while placing an emphasis on who the learner is as well? The IB system sees learning as involving the whole person, not just the academic.

You could ask potential schools what they see as the most important thing or aspect in providing an education. Then ask how you would recognise or see evidence of this in their curriculum and teaching approaches.

I would be looking to see if the school places its focus on work or learning? (My preference is always learning. Work tends to focus only on short term results, work habits and immediate skill or knowledge outcomes. Learning is focused on developing the person to be able to have agency and independence in the real world because they have the attitudes, skills, knowledge and understandings that are transferable and connected to real world events and situations. It is a much longer term view of education, rather than grade by grade. Learning focus on adaptability and resilience using attitudes and academic skills and knowledge as its base not its outcome.

I would also be thinking about the following things; what role does the school see students’ playing in the learning process?

  • Passive, receivers of knowledge?
  • Active agents in the process?
  • Is the school aware, valuing and attending to the emotional and social development of these young people?
  • Is academic progress the primary goal or is the development of the whole person valued?
  • Does the school foster resilience, a willingness to accept challenges, adaptability, innovation, interdependence and independence?
  • Are you open to learners being encouraged to find entry points into the learning based on their prior knowledge and experiences and thus improving engagement? Or are you after a situation that has clearly defined and set processes that everyone follows?
  • What role does student well-being play in the learning philosophy the school and teachers engage with?
  • What role does the school see students playing in the assessment process?
  • Is the school engaged in self and peer reflections and assessments?
  • Are teachers able to give timely and constructive feedback with students that moves beyond just grading?
  • Are the students involved in reporting and documenting their learning? (three way conferences, student lead conferences, portfolios, etc.) or are they the receivers of teacher documented outcomes?
  • Is assessment criteria made visible to the students at the beginning of the learning process? Or is there just a grade assigned to finished work with only the teacher and school holding and knowing the assessment criteria?

This post, “Choosing a school – What Type of School?” is the second in a four part series including

  • Choosing a school – Who is the learner? (Part 1)
  • Choosing a school – The long term view (Part 3)
  • Choosing a school – The power of gender politics (Part 4)