flourishing & belonging | rhythms | accountable creativity | relational learning
4 minute read
“Squaring the Circle” is an apt signpost for contemporary conversations on education, with children, parents, teachers and policy makers. It is both an ancient Greek geometry problem (proved impossible in 1882) as well as a metaphorical description of bridging seemingly opposite poles in any context. In this capacity it is an accurate image of our work to bridge many of the seemingly irreconcilable dilemmas of education, including a primary task to promote creative, inclusive and holistic school provision that is at the same time accountable and professional.
These wider dilemmas are perennial and universal in how they address the very nature of learning, and how learning takes place within wider social structures. They include the challenges of:
This can be seen, for instance, in the cultural shift where teachers place themselves at eye level to students, or at a proximity that doesn’t crowd, and conveys the relational as a basis for all learning. Have you seen the Edutopia youtube video on “Greeting students at the door.” I find it masterful, and applicable at all levels of school provision, in terms of phases, and teachers’ roles.
Various cultures and nations have approached this range of dilemmas in different ways. I continue to take inspiration from the leadership of the Finns who undertook a decade long journey to reconcile the disparate elements of their education system through a foundation of shared understandings. This often translates to a need to learn how we learn, and know how we know (metacognition), and embedding that approach at all levels, through the classroom, staffroom and boardroom.
This balance of the philosophical and the practical weaves its way through Waldorf Education and is finding new expression in much of the educational research currently proposing new ways to face the challenges coming towards us.
Waldorf Education itself has a lineage of over 100 years in pioneering creative, inclusive and holistic education. Founded by the Austrian polymath Rudolf Steiner, it has been a powerful innovation across the world. It is at times inaccurately described as an arts-based education, for the simple reason that it values the arts and humanities alongside the sciences in a way that is consistently integrated and balanced, in contrast with much of the developed world which tends to side-line the arts as a nice but unnecessary luxury in school provision.
Practically speaking, Waldorf Education tends:
Increasingly, creative thinking skills and creativity are being celebrated and promoted by international bodies who correctly identify these once marginalised ‘soft’ skills as critical in our challenge to not commit collective planetary suicide. It is no accident that creative learning and future studies sit easily alongside each other at conferences and carry between them the challenge of “squaring the circle” of our legacy to the next generation, as we restrain our assumptions and set the scene for discovery. As Gert Biesta suggests: “Real educational communication is a radically open and undetermined process.”
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