What sets progressive education apart from traditional education is its child-centered or student-centered approach. This is different from what most people are familiar with, which is teacher-directed learning.
It’s easier to get a clearer picture of what child-centered learning is by looking at what it is not. In teacher-directed learning, these are often what we see:
• Students work to meet the objectives set by the teacher
• Students complete activities designed by the teacher to achieve goals determined by the teacher
• Students respond to directions and step by step instruction from the teacher as they progress through activities
• Students are given extrinsic motivators like grades and rewards as a means of motivating them to complete work
• Students work in groups determined by the teacher-the teacher is in control of group membership
• Student work is evaluated solely by the teacher
List above taken from modernschool.org.
It is, therefore, the teacher’s goal to redirect learning so that students are actively involved in the process and that the teacher serves as a guide and collaborator. Below is an infographic that lists different things to look for in a student-centered learning environment. Teachers may use this as a guide to adjust their own lesson plans, and parents may use this as a guide in determining what it is they want for their child when looking for a school.
Read more about the graphic above from the article 8 Things to Look For in a Student-Centered Learning Environment by Emily Liebtag.
In child-centered education, teachers take the time to really get to know each student—their personality, their learning style, their skills, their interests—to be able to design lesson plans that tap into each of their strengths. When students are actively involved in their own learning, they are more engaged and it increases the likelihood of information retention.
Examples of activities that can be done inside the classroom that shift the focus from the teacher to the learners are allowing them to choose a project that will demonstrate what they have learned, performing a skit, or perhaps even creating a video presentation.
However, what is even more important than learning new information and being able to remember these are the other lifelong skills they learn that cannot be taught explicitly. They learn to collaborate with one another, how to compromise when they reach disagreements, and how to persevere when they are met with challenges that eventually help them to improve their self-esteem. By directing their own learning, they become independent lifelong learners with a love and passion for the pursuit of new knowledge. These are the aspects of child-centered education that make learning a holistic experience for the students.
Child Centered Learning. (n.d.).
Retrieved from https://www.modernschool.org/child-centered-learning/Head of School Matthew Gould Reflects on the Benefits of Child-centered Teaching and Whole-child Education. (n.d.).
Retrieved from https://www.norwoodschool.org/child-centered-education#
Liebtag, E. (2017, August 10).8 Things to Look For in a Student-Centered Learning Environment.
Retrieved from https://www.gettingsmart.com/2017/08/8-things-look-student-centered-learning-environment/
Piptree. (2018, February 28). The Benefits Of Child-Centred Education.
Retrieved from https://www.piptree.com.au/benefits-child-centred-education/
Progressive Education Overview. (n.d.).
Retrieved from https://thechildrenssangha.com/progressive-education-overview/
Photo by Taylor Wilcox on Unsplash
Many of us grew up in traditional schools where we were graded based on how well we were able to keep up with the lessons. It didn’t matter what you liked, what you were good at, or what you were challenged with. Everyone was expected to know and learn the same things at the same time. If you had trouble in a certain subject area or lesson, it was up to you to figure out how you were going to catch up with the lesson. Yes, our teachers would ask us at the end of the lesson, “are there any questions?” But did we really maximize this opportunity to have our questions clarified by our teachers? Maybe in private, perhaps after class, but it was honestly a little embarrassing to admit to your whole class that you didn’t understand the lesson so we just kept our questions to ourselves.
Individualized Educational Plan
Fortunately for both parents and students today, there are more schools now that are focused on each student’s abilities and areas for improvement instead of expecting everyone to follow the same standard. Progressive schools often have an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) for each student.
In Headway School for Giftedness (HSG), the IEP is made by each class adviser in collaboration with the other subject mentors. The first month of the school year is dedicated to making observations of all the students. The IEP covers the different developmental domains such as socioemotional, motor and self-help, language and communication, and cognitive or general ability. The teacher notes each student’s priority needs in each domain, and all the student’s teachers will work on improving all of these throughout the school year. From these needs, teachers are also able to make recommendations such as the need for academic tutorials, group social skills training (GSST), or even the need to have a shadow teacher.
While it is not required for admission, additional documents such as a complete psychoeducational assessment, a developmental pediatrician (DevPed) assessment, or progress reports from speech or occupational therapists are provided to the school so that the advisers can take these into account when developing the IEP. The complete psychoeducational assessment is most useful as it breaks down the child’s current abilities in each subject area. An assessment from the DevPed may tell us if the child has special needs such as autism or perhaps a developmental delay or a learning disability.
Accommodations and Modifications
Knowing whether a child has a diagnosed condition is in no way used to discriminate against the child, but rather, to prepare all teachers to better be able to provide the appropriate activities and employ the appropriate approach. This is called providing accommodations or modifications based on a child’s specific learning needs.
Accommodations are used to help a student learn the material or answer the activity without changing anything about the content of the lesson. A few examples may be providing a test paper with larger print, providing verbal and visual cues or prompts regarding directions and staying on task, allowing frequent rest breaks, preferential seating, or not deducting points for spelling errors or sloppy handwriting. Even with accommodations, there is no difference in what the children are learning.
Modifications, on the other hand, change the content of the lesson or the material. This may be providing a different set of vocabulary words that are simpler or providing easier reading material. Allowing a student to submit a project instead of a written report or providing a word bank of choices for answers to test questions are also modifications
Collaboration is often emphasized in HSG and this means that apart from having all subject teachers involved in making the IEP, all those who have a hand in educating and forming the child—parents, developmental pediatrician, speech therapist, occupational therapist, and tutor, among others—are also encouraged to weigh in on the IEP.
A case conference serves as the perfect avenue to discuss the strengths and needs contained in the IEP so that everyone is aware of the child’s goals for the year. This also gives the other stakeholders a chance to voice out other goals they feel should be included in the IEP so that everyone can start working on those as well. A case conference puts everyone on the same page with regards to the child’s education and formation so that conflicts in approaches and techniques across the different settings—home, school, or therapy—may be avoided.
A case conference may be requested by the parent, the teacher, or the school administration when the need arises at any time of the school year. This also implies that the IEP may be revised during the school year if there is a need for the program to be adjusted.
At the end of the school year, the teachers create a progress report based on the IEP made at the beginning of the school year. It’s a shorter version of a narrative report where the teacher makes notes or shares anecdotes about each item in the IEP that demonstrates how much was achieved within the school year. By providing notes and not solely a letter grade, the stakeholders for the next school year know exactly where to pick up from. This allows for continuous intervention throughout the child’s school years and the next grade level teachers will already have a clear picture of the child’s strengths and needs and therefore, know how to address them.
Our hope in HSG is that by employing individualized programming, we also cultivate an environment where the students themselves know that their inquiries are welcome and that their needs are provided for. When children feel that their differences are celebrated, it may be just what they need to thrive.
Kessler, E. (n.d.). Examples of Accommodations & Modifications.
Retrieved from https://www.smartkidswithld.org/getting-help/the-abcs-of-ieps/examples-of-accommodations-modifications/
Lee, A. M. I. (2019, October 17). Accommodations: What They Are and How They Work.
Retrieved from https://www.understood.org/en/learning-thinking-differences/treatments-approaches/educational-strategies/accommodations-what-they-are-and-how-they-work?_ul=1*1ldtgq1*domain_userid*YW1wLWo0OEduS3BfVlBSRC1aX3dUR0lBblE.
Lee, A. M. I. (2019, October 17). Modifications: What You Need to Know.
Retrieved from https://www.understood.org/en/learning-thinking-differences/treatments-approaches/educational-strategies/modifications-what-you-need-to-know?_ul=1*16ltqi4*domain_userid*YW1wLWo0OEduS3BfVlBSRC1aX3dUR0lBblE.
The Understood Team. (2020, March 5). The Difference Between Accommodations and Modifications.
Retrieved from https://www.understood.org/en/learning-thinking-differences/treatments-approaches/educational-strategies/the-difference-between-accommodations-and-modifications
Photo by Jerry Wang of unsplash.com
Homeschooling is not for everybody, which is why parents choose to send their children to school. But in times like these where we are all challenged to adapt to the situation that we have found ourselves in—the community quarantine brought about by the COVID-19 global pandemic—homeschooling can prove to be a blessing and a welcome change of scenery to both parents and children.
The beauty of homeschooling is that children can learn at their own pace, and parents who are new to homeschooling are encouraged to keep this in mind. Unlike in traditional schooling where there is a fixed curriculum and teachers go through the year guided by lesson plans that dictate exactly what needs to be done per day or per week, homeschooling offers flexibility and assures the learner that they there is no need to rush and that they can take their time in understanding the new lesson.
All children learn differently and there is nothing wrong with needing to have a lesson repeated a few times because it wasn’t understood the first time. Homeschooling provides children with the opportunity to figure things out without the added pressure of trying to keep up with their peers. Additionally, it is best that parents not be the source of this pressure to do well and keep up with the lesson as well. Self-paced learning is part of tailor fitting your child’s program in homeschooling.
Allowing your child to learn at their own pace also entails understanding and accepting their current abilities. There is nothing shameful about experiencing difficulty in a lesson that the child is expected to know at his or her current grade level. If this is the case, go back to the basics and help your child grasp the fundamentals first before moving on to more difficult content. Conversely, give your child more challenging content when the current lesson is proving to be too easy or if your child is showing signs of boredom.
Part of the flexibility of homeschooling is the freedom to integrate more than one subject area into one activity. For example, if the lesson in math is about weight, the child can measure the weight of the different people in the household. You may integrate HELE into the lesson by talking about eating the right kinds of food to maintain healthy body weight. If the child is advanced, you may even discuss the concept of body mass index (BMI) and introduce the formulas on how to compute it for an added challenge. English can also be integrated by providing word problems suitable to the child’s level. Want to take it a step further? Translate the word problem into Filipino.
As previously mentioned, all children learn differently, and that means that some children may have difficulty grasping a concept when it’s presented to them as an idea without anything else to support it. Again, this is fine. Embrace it as an opportunity to delve deeper into the topic.
The concept of experiential learning is not new and has been around since the 1980’s. Thanks to David Kolb’s experiential learning cycle (1984), we have a step-by-step guide as educators to help students who need a more concrete learning experience.
According to Kolb, there are four stages of the learning cycle and effective learning takes place when a learner is able to cycle through all four stages, regardless of which stage a learner starts in.
Using the example above of the math lesson involving weight, one way to make the lesson more experiential and contextual is to integrate life skills such as packing one’s luggage for a trip. Explain the concept of baggage allowance and have your child pack for a three-day trip, for example, without exceeding the allowed weight. This will allow them to learn concepts such as trial and error and even prioritizing things and their importance all while still targeting the main concept of weight.
By providing a more concrete experience like this, the child is better able to appreciate the lesson, which may result in a better understanding and retention of the lesson.
Creativity in Implementing a Homeschool Program
While the materials for the homeschool program are already provided to the parents, it still pays to exercise one’s own creativity in working to make integration and experiential learning work for your child. Other more unconventional approaches to teaching and learning are not included in the homeschool program and it is therefore up to the parents to implement the program in a way that engages their child based on their child’s interests. Parents may learn that it’s not always so simple to hold and maintain a child’s interest especially when learning a new topic, and so parents are also challenged to exercise their own creativity and flexibility to meet their goals.
It may require a little bit of additional work, but try not to be frustrated if something is not working. Just as parents should avoid putting too much pressure on their children to succeed, avoid putting the same pressure on yourself to get your child’s program right the first time. It may take time and adjustment on both ends before everyone can reap the benefits of homeschooling, and that is perfectly okay.
Who knows? There may be parents who, even after the community quarantine is over and children are allowed back in school, realize that perhaps homeschooling is something they want to pursue. Could that parent be you?
Mcleod, S. (2017, February 5). Kolb's Learning Styles and Experiential Learning Cycle. Retrieved from https://www.simplypsychology.org/learning-kolb.html
Photo by Jerry Wang on Unsplash