Man with the work Learn on his head

Our July article The Anti-Lecture Debate was triggered by the University of Adelaide’s ban on lectures and gave links to  various viewpoints from academia on the value of lectures, including the comment “some have even claimed lectures are as bad for learning as smoking is for health.” Since then, an interesting result has been reported from a different educational initiative.

A 17 August 2015 ScienceDaily article, Futuristic electronics one step nearer, from the Faculty of Science – University of Copenhagen reports that first-year Nano Science bachelor students became published researchers after a re-structuring of the study program in 2010 from a programme structured upon research-based instruction, to one that uses teaching-based research. Thomas Just Sørensen, an associate professor at the University of Copenhagen, spearheaded the research project. He notes “For us as a university, the big news is obviously that first year students conducted the research. But, we achieved a very significant result in molecular electronics as well…. Our self-assembling electronics are a bit like putting cake layers, custard and frosting in a blender and having it all pop out of the blender as a perfectly formed layer cake”

The article outlines the teaching-based research approach: “For their first assignment, the students were simply asked to design, conduct and analyse a range of experiments. The new instructional type has shed research results every year since. However, it wasn’t until 2013 that a result was ready to be published.”

The goal of such educational initiatives is summed up in an August 19, 2015 article in The Conversation, Teaching how to think is just as important as teaching anything else, by Peter Ellerton, Lecturer in Critical Thinking at The University of Queensland. That article references a new paper on teaching critical thinking skills in science “It is a common lamentation that students are not taught to think, but there is usually an accompanying lack of clarity about exactly what that might mean.”

Peter goes on to answer the question What are thinking skills? And to explain Why inquiry is necessary and why we must be able to talk about our thinking.

Another article in The Conversation deals with a different kind of educational initiative which deserves more attention. The  August 21, 2015 article, Flexischools have a lot to teach mainstream schools, by Martin Mills, Chair professor at The University of Queensland, starts by quoting some of the responses given when pupils in flexischools across Australia and the UK were asked what they’d be doing if they weren’t at this school.

Responses:

Dead

    Doing drugs

    Jail

    Crime

    Hanging out in the streets

    Nothing.

The article notes that flexischools are a relatively new form of alternative schooling in Australia and  have grown from just a few community-based projects to one of the fastest-growing type of new schools in Australia. “Many of the original flexischools began in parks, shopping malls and community buildings with very little funding, and provided educational support to young homeless people. Now many flexischools open their doors as fully accredited schools.”

Martin believes that flexischools have a lot to teach mainstream schools. “There are many young people in flexischools who are now fully engaged in learning and yet they either rejected or were rejected by the mainstream… As a principal once told us, these young people are not disengaged, they have been disenfranchised, and it is the responsibility of all in education to ensure that their right to an education is realised. At the moment flexischools are carrying much of the weight of this responsibility.

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