Saturday, May 05, 2012

team teaching, integrated learning vs. the silo effect...

One of the challenges that all schools face, even the best of the ISACS and NAIS independent schools, and the best of American universities is that of the silo effect which I mentioned in an earlier post. The silo effect leaves professors or teachers isolated (often comfortably) in their own classrooms where they too often fail to take the advantages offered by collaboration with colleagues, and neglect to offer interdisciplinary studies to their students. The result is the loss of vigor in education, as studies become mind-numbing, and unadventurous. Studies confined in silos can be quite rigorous and within silos, students can be held to high standards, but not without paying a high price of attrition. Even students diligently present each and every day, will pay little attention to materials presented without vigor or without relevance established in their own lives and to their own interests.

When I was an accreditation review team member earlier in the year at an ISACS accredited independent school, the history department review team was concerned with the presence of the silo effect, each teacher happily doing his or her own thing, while the practical arts department was concerned that their own efforts at collaboration were made to no avail. The practical arts including wood shop were undervalued by teaching staff in silos and thus unresponsive to opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration.

That is where A+ Schools can safely enter the picture. The A+ Schools program originated in North Carolina with the purpose of putting arts integration at the center of school life. If the arts are present, the hands will be also.Here in Arkansas, the A+ Schools program has been adopted by the Thea Foundation and championed by former Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton. The training to become an A+ School involves the entire school staff, from janitor to principal, because it is absolutely essential that everyone on staff has an equal opportunity to become fully cognizant of the value of the arts. In other words, professors and teachers of various disciplines must leave the relative security of their silos. Participation in A+ comes first from a decision at the top, followed by total buy-in at all levels as to the value of the arts. There are two ways to accomplish our goals. The one is to get school administrators to acknowledge the need to lure teaching staff outside of their silos to engage in collaboration. The second is to have projects available that establish the relevance of woodworking education.

It is extremely difficult for those in academia to see value in such things as wood working. The view from the silo is narrow and exclusive. But I was just informed that the Boston Public Schools system has recognized woodworking in schools as ann offering in the arts, its status being equal to drawing, painting, or music. That was a first step in getting schools to recognize the potential of woodworking education to re-energize learning.

Make, fix and create...

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