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By: Inge Elliott

Fast Food Model

Ken Robinson, the ‘Ted Talk’ guru on all things education, once equated the modern-day schooling system to that of the fast food industry. The production process is a highly regulated series of procedures that ensures the uniformity and linearity of the final product. Schools are a ‘singular conception of ability’, championing standardized testing and administrative checks over personalised learning. This ‘industrialised approach’ wholly undermines the conditions needed for individual learner’s talents to be realised and exposed.

In this one-size-fits-all approach to education, a teacher has the arduous job of coaxing the talents out of their learners in an environment that is structured in such a way as to mask them. The need for a dynamic method of instruction can be clarified by comparing the role of educator to that of a musician. The stage is set. The teacher is the main act. The audience is a group of precocious tweens; however, they all happen to possess a diverse taste in music. Beating to the tune of a single drum means that much of the curriculum taught will not be internalised by all of the learners we seek to inspire. If a learner is disengaged, how will their interests, which often bears fruit to talent, be unearthed?

Phenomenon-Based Learning

Phenomenon-Based Learning is a wide-ranging concept of education that includes current methodologies such as problem and project-based learning. The pedagogical relevance of this method of education is numerous. Phenomenon-Based Learning is rooted in discovery and anchors children in the ‘real-world’ by allowing them to collectively cultivate their own questions or problems about life phenomena that can then be researched and deciphered; for example, ‘How and why did the Titanic sink and could it have been avoided?’

A Holistic Approach

Phenomenon-Based Learning breaks the traditional divide of subjects in favour of a holistic approach. Most, if not all, of the individual learning disciplines are incorporated as the learners grapple with the problem, question or inquiry at hand. This interconnectivity allows learners to delve deeper into aspects of the task that most appeal to them, allowing for individual expression in the areas of technology, design or writing. In this manner, children’s aptitudes are unveiled and their proficiency in the skills underpinning the task are achieved through the lengthy exposure of the phenomenon being studied.

Learning Styles

The all-encompassing nature of phenomenon-Based Learning ensures the inclusivity of the various learning styles and are thus more likely to allow for individual talents to shine. Visual. Kinaesthetic. Auditory. Read/Write. Teachers who are determined to fight the ‘Food Industry Approach’ will constantly adapt both the material and method of instruction to ensure the engagement of his/her learners. Phenomenon-Based Learning allows students to develop, and connect with, their unique learning styles by providing them with the opportunity to delve into a multitude of materials, methods and presentational platforms to solve a puzzling and intriguing aspect of society.

Moving Forward

It is only through being granted the time and space to implement such methods of education that a learner’s true abilities are revealed. Teachers who are made to chase the curriculum are being forced to forgo their learners’ mastery of the necessary skills in favour of surface-level repetition of seemingly infinite content.

Ken Robinson identifies two types of people, quite simply, those that love what they do and those that don’t. The people fortunate enough to be in the former category view their professions as a manifestation of their most authentic selves, providing them with a sense of purpose and passion. Most, if not all, teachers would agree that the occupation of teaching is not something you do, but rather something you are. It is a genuine calling to engage the spirit and energy of young minds. To engage is to discover individual talents in a framework that encourages the exploration of the natural phenomenon that holds intrinsic value to us all.