When you come to think of it schools (and our education system for that matter) must be one of the last remains of 19th century thinking still active in our society. It is driven by a world view in which goals are achieved through hard industrious labor (you have to study hard and continuously), agency is confined to specially designed buildings (you have to visit classrooms) and restricted to time tables, interactions are top down driven (you have to comply to assigned tasks), authority is in de hand of a senior overseer (you are being told what to do), and results are valued as end-products (once it is done it is finished). These restraints are all set in place to objectify and define learners as subjects (1). No escape allowed from the system other than being penalized.
Confessed, there have been more eloquent, comprehensive, and thought provoking criticisms of education, but the aim is similar, i.e., to rethink the structure and process of how we educate. This is done out of a real concern, looking at present day demands of school learning.
A collection of chapters in a book on student engagement captures most of the key conceptions to be considered when it comes to a revised way of thinking about school education. Its main thread is to promote manifold partnerships of students, teachers, and school managers around their shared business of learning. Goals are open-ended formulated; activity is flexibly organized, interaction is based on equality, and outcomes are considered as stepping stones to higher goals.
As 19th century institutions schools can not accommodate partnership; it is alien to its inherent education view. As 21th century institutions a view would entail learning which is on demand, extended to different locations and times for learning, and highly adaptive to evolving learning needs. It is then that the word ‘school’ is not implying a building but “Bildung’, as a synonym for Building Your Future. It certainly would give the phrase: “I want to come to school more” (4) a new meaning.
Engaging students as partners in learning and teaching: a guide for faculty, by Alison Cook-Sather, Catherine Bovill, and Peter Felten, San Francisco, CA, Jossey Bass, 2014, xxix + 269 pp., £28.99 (hardback), ISBN 978-1-118-43458-1
Reviewed by Colin Bryson (2016) Engagement through partnership: students as partners in learning and teaching in higher education, International Journal for Academic Development, 21:1, 84-86, link to this article: